Well, not really. Ace Indian director Mani Ratnam directed Kannathil Muthamittal in 2002 long before Lion was even conceptualised. But the similarities between the two films are uncanny.
In the Mani Ratnam film, writer Thiruchelvan (Madhavan) travels to Sri Lanka to narrate the stories of the people during the country's civil war. He then adopts a child from there and when she is around 1, she insists on going back to Sri Lanka to find her mother.
Similarly, in Lion, Nicole Kidman adopts a young boy. Saroo Brierley, from India and when he is much older, the boy goes back in search of his family. While Ratnam's film is based on his original screenplay, Lion is based on A Long Way Home, a book by Saroo Brierley narrating his life story.
Interestingly, both the films take place in the neighbouring countries of India and Sri Lanka. It is understandable that Mani Ratnam would focus on the Sri Lankan civil war as it was one of the fiercest battles that India has been closest to. A lot of Sri Lankan Tamils came in as refugees to Tamil Nadu at that point and that also changed the emotional landscape of the state.
In 2002, Mani Ratnam may not have known that a movie with a similar theme would come out in 2016 and that too in Hollywood. But Saroo Brierley's journey on being adopted and how he used Google Maps to track down his family is simply incredible.
In Kannathil Muthamittal, Amudha is just 10 years old when she is told by her parents that has been adopted. She insists on meeting her real parents though there might just be a slim chance given the conflict in the region. But in Lion, the young boy who is adopted when he was five, goes in search of his real parents only at the age of 25. But they have the same yearning to know where they are from, discover their roots and find out why they were separated from their parents.
Dev Patel, who stars as the older Saroo Brierley in Lion, told Vanity Fair that the film was "in essence, a story about mothers and sons". And in this day of technology, it is also about Google and Google maps. Lion is said to have a strong Oscar buzz for its excellent performances by Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel. In fact, Nicole Kidman is tipped for a Best Supporting Actress trophy and Dev Patel an Oscar for Best Actor.
The two films are quite different otherwise right from the locations of where they have been filmed to where the journey takes the adopted children. Though Kannathil Muthamittal can't be compared to a Hollywood film, it's one of the best films by Mani Ratnam and has won many awards in India, including six National Awards. While Lion may walk away with an Oscar or two, Kannathil Muthamittal won people's hearts more than a decade back with its stellar performances, storyline and spellbinding music.