After shooting his Oscar-nominated directorial, Lion, in India, Garth Davis says he feels a deep connect with the country and already misses working here. In an interview with HT Café, the Australian director says he was glad to find Hollywood actors such as Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman who were passionate enough to be part of the film. And though he is disappointed that the movie wasn’t nominated for the Best Director award at the Oscars, Garth feels that none of nominations could have happened without him, and that’s enough.
Did you expect Lion to get multiple Oscar nominations?
It’s incredible to see how well the film has been received. I am happy that the Academy has recognised the [crew’s] passion. I am proud of the fact that through the nominations, the film will have a chance to reach more people and get a wider release. To me, that is the real benefit of the nominations.
Were you disappointed on missing out on the best director category?
A part of me is probably disappointed (laughs), but who can be disappointed when your film gets nominated for Best Picture award? None of the nominations would have happened without me, so, I feel like I am in those nominations. I get my joy from mothers and fathers and refugees who write to me saying how much the film has moved them. They are my nominations (laughs).
How hard was it to make a film based on real-life events?
It’s a catch-22, as on one hand, this story was so amazing, and you had access to real people who could add to the script and add dimension to the characters. But you also have a huge responsibility to present their lives in a way that is respectful and honest.
What was your impression of India before and after shooting here?
I love India. I had shot a few TV commercials in Mumbai and Pune before shooting for this film. I love that the country is a melting pot of humanity. I feel life in a very deep way in India. We shot the film in Kolkata and in Saroo’s (Brierley) home town area in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. I have such deep affection for the people here. I felt connected with everyone I worked with here. I miss the experience (laughs).
Have you seen Bollywood films?
Yes, but haven’t seen any recently. Please don’t ask me the names [of the films] (laughs). One of the challenges of making Lion was that it is a social-realist film, and Bollywood films are larger than life expressions of true stories. It was a challenge to find actors who would be more real. I loved the way they [Indians] express themselves, and find the culture very vibrant.
What was it about Dev Patel that made you cast him as the older Saroo?
My challenge was how to get Dev Patel to deliver a social-realist performance. As a person, he is amazing. He was keen to do a different role and didn’t want to be typecast as the funny Indian. He wanted to play a ‘real’ role. I think we met at the right time, and he worked hard on the role as well.