I have a confession to make. I am not very fond of Kannada films. And that includes the grievously over-the-top KGF franchise. It was therefore a welcome surprise to watch a Kannada film that nobody can dislike. Kiranraj K’s 777 Charlie has its heart in the right place. It is a plea for canine compassion that tends to acquire a hysterical tone as it moves towards a mawkish mountingly melodramatic finale. But the vibes remain authentic and positive throughout.
777 Charlie is not as subtle and tightly wound as Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Meagan Levay in which a marine officer combats in Iraq with her canine companion. But it has its heart-tugging moments. What I loved about the film is that it treats the central relationship as a love story. At one point the protagonist actually asks his canine companion how much she (yes, it’s a she) loves him.
The dog’s reply must be seen to be believed. 777 Charlie combines canine cuteness with quirky sometimes funny and heartwarming incidents that show the growing bonding between the loner hero Dharma (Rakshit Shetty) and the abandoned dog Charlie who forcibly insinuates herself into Dharma’s life.
The initial scenes showing the pair’s developing rapport is the best part of the plot. It exudes an unstrained warmth and a supple tenderness, lacking later when things get awkwardly sentimental. In the second half, I thought I was watching Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Mili, with a canine replacing the titular protagonist.
Admirably, 777 Charlie doesn’t shy away from sentimentality. It is fearlessly maudlin, willfully choosing a lachrymose approach to the plot rather than a more restrained attitude. I also felt that that the plot ran out of steam midway and introduced a road journey with a highly contrived stopover where Charlie develops romantic feelings for a fellow canine. Luckily there are no love ballads for Charlie and her romantic interest.
For all its sins of excessive sentimentality, the film steers away from approaching any signposts of absurdity. 777 Charlie remains rooted to a temperate tone. There is some rather clumsy acting here by some of the supporting cast. But all the misgivings melt when we look into Charlie’s benevolent eyes.
One of the memorable peripheral characters is a kind old woman at a roadside food stall who insists on slipping an extra idli every day in the hero’s breakfast packet.
That’s the mood of the film. It is constantly over-generous in serving up the emotions.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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