Lion (2016 Film)

Lion (2016 Film) Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Jalebi (Symbol)

Jalebi is a deep-fried dessert popular in India. It is first seen at the beginning of the film, when a young Saroo spots them while visiting a bustling marketplace with his brother Guddu. He is fascinated by them and asks his older brother to buy him some one day. They discuss the fact that one day they will be able to afford all the jalebis they want. In this moment, the jalebis represent the pleasure and privilege that they dream of as poor children.

Later in the film, Saroo is at a party hosted by an Indian woman, and he spots some jalebis in the kitchen. This reminds him of home immediately, bringing back memories of his brother and his life in India. Afterward, he says: "I'm not from Calcutta. I'm lost," which is a key moment of realization in the film. Here, jalebis represent his life in India and his childhood, which he has largely suppressed in his memory.

Butterflies (Motif)

At the beginning of the film, young Saroo is shown standing in the middle of a large swarm of yellow butterflies. As an adult, he remembers this moment, which helps him to locate exactly where he lived as a child. As such, the butterflies have some significance in terms of memory and identity to the film's main character. Other than this, butterflies are also symbolic of transformation, and therefore represent Saroo's transformation through the film, and the difficulties he faces in finding his true identity.

Soda (Symbol)

In Calcutta, Saroo meets a woman named Noor who seems very nice and helpful. She takes him back to her apartment and gives him a bottle of soda, which represents relief and bounty. After Saroo has been living on the streets and struggling to figure out how to live as a homeless child, the soda is a symbol of relief—connoting prosperity, sweetness, and a stocked fridge.

Lion (Symbol)

The titular symbol of the lion is a subtle one throughout the film, and the audience does not quite understand the significance of it until the end. At one point, Saroo sees a religious shrine on the river in Calcutta that has a statue of a lion in it. The lion represents bravery and resilience in the face of adversity. Then, at the very end, we learn that Saroo learned his name incorrectly, and that his real name, "Sheru," means lion. Thus we see that Saroo himself is represented by the lion, an animal that traditionally symbolizes dignity and bravery.

The Brierleys' House (Symbol)

When Saroo first arrives in Tasmania, he is overwhelmed by his adoptive family's house. It is a middle-class Australian home, well equipped, with a full fridge and a television. In these first moments of Saroo entering the house, the house represents the West itself, middle-class suburban living, and economic comfort.