9-Year-Old Indian Becomes Youngest Winner of this Best Actor Award in Australia

Sunny Pawar picked the best actor's title for Lion, while the film swept the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Art Awards.


Sunny Pawar, the charismatic nine-year-old boy who played the lost boy Saroo Brierley in the Nicole Kidman-starrer Lion, was a surprise winner at Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Art Awards on Dec 6. Pawar became the youngest winner of the best actor’s title — an award previously won by Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caton, Andrew Garfield and David Gulpilil.

Simon Burke was until now the youngest to receive the award at the age of 15 years in 1976 for his role in The Devil’s Playground.

Pawar got the role from among 2,000 children who auditioned to play the young Saroo in the the Garth Davis-directed drama. The film is based on the real story of Saroo Brierly, an Indian child raised in Australia, who starts an emotional journey to find his biological mother after being adopted by a couple in the island nation.

“Thank you so much for the honor,” Pawar said in a video message from the set of a new film he is shooting in Kolkata, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. “I am so happy. I wish you all happy new year and merry Christmas.”

Director Garth Davis was jubilant with the results. “I was just praying that he would win,” he said. “I could just feel it when I met him that he had something special. There was an instinctual connection with that boy.”

He added: “That was one of the great things I discovered on the shoot – a few weeks in, he started to empathize with Saroo’s story and became an actor. He wasn’t just a kid getting responses or emotions. He was actually embracing this character and empathizing with him and bringing that to the floor.”

The film Lion dominated the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards in Sydney, taking 12 awards from 12 nominations. It won the awards for the best film, best direction, and best supporting actor awards for Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel. Kidman also won title of best guest or supporting actress in a TV drama for Top of the Lake: China Girl.

“To be acknowledged now at 50 years old – I started in the industry at 14 – [is] just extraordinary,” she said in a video from Los Angeles, the report added.

The best Asian film award went to the Aamir Khan-starring Indian film Dangal, a drama about a father training his daughter to be wrestlers. Russell Crowe presented the award.

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