A Tour of Lion's Filming Locations in Kolkata, India

"Lion" |Courtesy of Penguin Books Australia
"Lion" |Courtesy of Penguin Books Australia
Photo of Sridevi Nambiar
13 July 2017

With six Academy Award nominations in addition to several other premiere award nominations and wins, Lion was definitely one of the most celebrated films of 2016. And rightfully so—starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, among others, and featuring stunning cinematography, the movie has much to offer moviegoers worldwide. But Kolkata fans have particular reason to rejoice—the city’s strong presence in several parts of the movie.

Lion was adapted from the book A Long Way Home: A Memoir, an autobiographical account of Saroo Brierly, who at the age of five found himself lost on a train bound to Kolkata—far away from his family in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. With no idea of the name of his hometown or even his last name, young Saroo found himself utterly lost and helpless in Kolkata until he was rescued by a government agency and later adopted by an Australian couple. The memoir traces his journey as an Australia-based businessman 25 years later as he tries to track his original hometown and family.

Having had a 16-day shooting schedule in Kolkata, Lion is among a rich list of movies that have been graced by the city’s charismatic presence. Involving over 25 local actors as well as Kolkata-based production crew members, the film significantly benefits from the City of Joy’s rich involvement.

Kolkata, seen through five-year-old Saroo’s eyes, is a chaotic, multidimensional place. Shot by cinematographer Greig Fraser, from a child’s point of view, the city looks overwhelmingly huge, endless, and dangerous. While the film’s brilliant cinematography manages to capture Saroo’s helplessness as he attempts to navigate the city, it also captures the city’s larger than life magnificence.

For Kolkatans viewing the film, the list of familiar visuals from around the city is endless—from the city’s most celebrated landmark, the Howrah Bridge, and its surrounding areas, where Saroo spends most of his time as a lost child in Kolkata, to the iconic teahouse Flurys on Park Street. Historic North Kolkata and its architecturally marvelous heritage houses are also featured in the film. The 130+-year-old Basu Bati in Bagbazar is among some of the well-known buildings one can notice in the film.

Howrah Bridge | Manuel Menal /WikiCommons

The city’s historic train network is also brilliantly featured in the film. Anyone familiar with Kolkata will immediately recognize Howrah station and its adjacent areas while tracing the earliest parts of Saroo’s odyssey in Kolkata. Shalimar station in Howrah was also a prime shooting location for the film. Besides the stations, the crew also extensively shot in local trains at both these stations.

Howrah Railway Station | Bernard Gagnon /WikiCommons

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