Kolkata: His is a real life rags to riches story or Slumdog Millionaire. He is the Indian small wonder, who is grabbing all the attention, globally. Well, we are talking about our very own Sunny Pawar, the young Saroo, who is winning hearts across the world with his performance in the highly acclaimed Hollywood film, Lion. The movie has received six Oscar nominations. Sunny plays the role of young Dev Patel in Lion. Dev Patel, had played lead role in much acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire Hollywood movie.
Posters of the Oscar nominated film Lion has Sunny stretching his arms to catch butterflies. Just like little Saroo, the character he plays in the film, Sunny loves chasing the butterflies. So what if he is yet to come to terms with those chasing him for an interview?
This is a big leap for a child who enjoyed watching television with his younger siblings in the slums of Mumbai’s Kalina area and dreaming of being on television someday. With no acting background and no English-speaking skills, Sunny was only five when he was auditioned for the role.
When Sunny, was quizzed about his selection, over the phone, he said, “We received a brochure in our school about the audition happening for the film in Andheri. A lot of my classmates were going for it, so even I tagged along with my father for the audition. However, we were not asked to do anything special for the audition, just play and run. Well, that’s how I got selected for this role.”
After being chosen over thousands of kids for the movie, Sunny, then barely 6 years old had traveled to Kolkata and Australia to shoot for the film, which is based on a real life story.
But, the cute kid does not hesitate to share that he is tired of all the questions being thrown at him and that he would rather play games than answer being posed at him by journalists. However, on being prompted by his father he is quick to add that he is loving all the attention. Studying in standard 3 at a local school in Mumbai Sunny’s story is what Bollywood dreams are made of. His father has already left his job to manage his now famous son’s career.
Sunny had also made headlines for not being granted the US visa to attend the screening of Lion. He finally went on to share the red carpet with his co-stars including Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Priyanka Bose at the 8th Annual Governors Awards in California.
And all he says about the red carpet moment was that it was a lot of fun and he got to wear a suit. Clearly, stardom is yet to affect his innocence but stars like Nicole Kidman are already his fan. “Sunny is this little light and he makes the huge story leap very believable, from small Saroo to big Saroo,” shares Kidman.
The child artist bonded with Nicole Kidman and David Wenham, his on-screen parents, by playing cricket with them – scenes which eventually made it into the film was guided by director Garth Davis through improvised sign language to communicate. There used to be extensive rehearsals before the shoot. But he brushes aside any suggestion of stage fright or being intimidated by the limelight.
A short conversation made it evident that Sunny, who was familiar only with his mother tongue Marathi, is now quite conversant in Hindi. He seems quite relieved that his friends and teachers have not started treating him any differently than before even though they are proud of him.
Talk about shooting at various cities for the film, he says that of the places he had visited while filming he loved Australia the most? And what about Kolkata? He had spent a month in the city, shooting for the film. He reveals that despite having visited all tourist spots in the city, he cant recall much.
The Weinstein Company, which has the distribution rights of Lion, had pitched the child actor for a potential Best Actor Oscar nomination, following strong reviews of his performance at the Toronto and London film festivals . Here’s wishing the rising star all the very best.