From Sheru Munshi Khan to Lion: The real story of Saroo Brierley

Indian-Australian businessman Saroo Brierley is a household name now after his heart-wrenching real-life story is being celebrated through the film 'Lion'.  The film is not only being appreciated worldwide, but has also won several Oscar and BAFTA nominations. He says the success of the homecoming story is unimaginable and wants it to bring hope to those who may be going through what he did.

Saroo Brierley with Nicole Kidman, Priyanka Bose and Dev Patel
Saroo Brierley along with Priyanka Bose, Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel. Photo courtesy: Saroo Brierley Facebook page

"I am humbled and touched that the film has been chosen for six Oscar nominations. I never imagined my story would get that (an Oscar nomination)," said Saroo.
"For me, more than winning awards, I want the film to penetrate as much as it can for those kids and parents who are going through the same situation. I want those kids to be motivated and inspired, who are vulnerable, not knowing where they are coming from, who their parents are," he added.

Separated from family at the age of five
Saroo was born in Madhya Pradesh in poor family - mother, two brothers and sister. But after being separated by his family at the age of five, he was adopted by an Australian couple from a Kolkata orphanage. While his Australian parents gave him all the love and privilege to lead a good life, he longed for and kept on searching for his birth mother. He finally, using Google Earth, met her at Khandwa after 25 years.

Saroo Brierley book - A long way home
After an emotional reunion with his birth mother after 25 years, he wrote a book 'A Long Way Home'. Photo courtesy: Saroo Brierley Facebook page

When asked what made him persist with the search, Saroo said, "I think the love and bonding I share with my real family, affection of my mother, love and bonding with siblings, drove me to continue the search. I used to think that my brother Guddu is still screaming my name."

Childhood in Australia
Saroo once taken to Australia, gradually got accustomed to Western culture and forgot his native language Hindi.

"You see, I was just five years old then (when I got separated from my biological family), and had never been to school as we were living in a slum and my mother had no money to send us to school. So, my vocabulary was underdeveloped anyway. When I went to school, in the beginning, for some time I did not understand the language, but slowly I adapted. I was a happy child then," recalled Saroo.

"I was quite popular in my school as I was good in sports. I played a lot of games and, as a kid, I never lived in a shelter. Rather, I openly mingled with other kids. So I was quite a normal child in school and never faced any racism."

A long way home
After an emotional reunion with his birth mother after 25 years, he wrote a book 'A Long Way Home', and then director Garth Davis made the film 'Lion' based on the story. 

While talking about the transformation of the story from his memories in the book to film, Saroo said, "I relived those days through the film all over again." 

"I was never introduced to any religion from my childhood. Later, when I was adopted, since my Australian parents were not religious, I did not follow any religion. Nevertheless, I believe in the power of the universe. I am thankful to the universe that curved my path to an incredible journey of my life. Without that positive energy (of the universe), I would not be still around," Saroo said.

Born with a Muslim name Sheru Munshi Khan which was changed to Saroo Brierley after his adoption, he says he does not follow any religion.

(With inputs from IANS)

Deepti Kaul
Deepti Kaul – Senior Writer

Deepti Kaul has over a decade’s experience in journalism. She has worked with media giants like Hindustan Times, NDTV, India Today, IndiaTV and as a freelancer. She loves to write on Indians abroad, fashion, lifestyle,food, travel, showbiz, education, parenting while meeting people and experiencing different cultures.