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At around 1:30 into the movie Lion, Saroo tears his schedules from the wall, then starts clicking Google Earth more or less at random. He then moves out of his original search radius - the Google Earth shots suggest only in the order of kilometers - and then notices a characteristic surface structure that draws his attention. Ultimately that leads to the answer of his search.

At this point in the movie I had serious issues maintaining my suspension of disbelief.
I can understand that in desperation he would click outside of the area he had already searched. But that would assume that the direction of his original searches was correct (based on something he 'knew'?). It would also imply that he used the correct amount of zoom to recognize an area that he has not seen from the air before.

Since the movie is based on a real story, this makes me wonder:

Did Saroo find the actual location based on more factual information or clues than presented in the movie?

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Did Saroo find the actual location based on more factual information or clues than presented in the movie?

Yes

As an adult, he spent many hours over many months conducting searches using the satellite images on Google Earth, painstakingly following railway lines radiating out from Howrah railway station. He relied on his vague memories of the main features around Burhanpur railway station, although he knew little of the name of the station except that it began with the letter B.

Late one night in 2011, he came upon a small railway station that closely matched his childhood recollection of where he had become trapped in an empty carriage; the name of this station was Burhanpur, very close to a phonetic spelling of the name he remembered from his childhood ordeal. He followed the satellite images of the railway line north and found the town of Khandwa. He had no recollection of that name, but the town contained recognizable features, such as a fountain near the train tracks where he used to play. He was able to trace a path through the streets to what appeared to be the place where he and his family used to live.

Following up on a lead, Saroo contacted a Facebook group based in Khandwa. The Facebook group reinforced his belief that Khandwa might be his hometown.

In 2012, Saroo travelled to Khandwa in India and asked residents if they knew of any family that had lost their son 25 years ago. He showed photographs of himself as a child in Hobart. Local people soon led him to his mother. He was also reunited with his sister, Shekila, and his surviving brother, Kallu, who were now a schoolteacher and factory manager, respectively. With Saroo and Guddu gone, their mother was able to afford to send them to school.

Wikipedia

A lot more complicated and detailed than just clicking around on Google Earth.

  • Ah! I looked at the Wikipedia entry for Lion, especially the section Critical reception, but forgot to look at Saroo's entry... – Jan Doggen Aug 13 '17 at 10:10

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