The recent Kannada blockbuster 777 Charlie attempts to tell a story that can change hearts and perceptions about dogs; Independent dogs in particular. The film, directed by Kiranraj K is the story of Dharma, a man who suffers from a terrible trauma having lost his entire family in a road accident. Dharma, played by Rakshit Shetty, becomes a recluse and doesn’t care about his life until a rambunctious, pesky puppy shows up on his doorstep, his life turned upside down for good. Dharma takes in abandoned puppy Charlie. In turn, Charlie gives him meaning in life.
Melting Hearts: What 777 Charlie Does Differently
There was a real Charlie and it was an Indie. Director Kiranraj K is an animal lover and has had independent dogs all his life. One of his independent dogs, Charlie, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Charlie was transferred to Charlie’s Animal Rescue Center (CARE) in Bengaluru for treatment, where he was recovering.
It was during the pandemic and after Charlie’s death that a grief-stricken Kiranraj launched a film project 777 Charlie. While working on the screenplay for 777 Charlie, Kiranraj drew on CARE’s contributions – on animal abandonment, trauma care, inbreeding, cruelty and pet adoption – which have incorporated into the film’s narrative.
The movie that came out is a tribute to Kiranraj’s Indie dog. “Charlie Reel had to be an Indie given Kiranraj’s love of Indie dogs, however, it would have been daunting for a single dog to perform over 400 tasks. As there were no two independent dogs that would looked like, they (the filmmakers) had no choice but to bring four Labradors to the set,” shares Sudha Narayanan, Founder and Trustee of CARE.
The Adopt-Don’t Buy Story
In India, dog breeding is a lucrative business. Dogs are treated like commodities and used for the mass production of puppies. With the Labradors playing the role of Indie Charlie, it was imperative that the director subtly embed the “Adopt-Don’t Buy” message for the audience.
“Charlie was never sold or bought in the movie and that’s the message audiences should take away. In real life too, Rakshit and Kiranraj adopted their Charlies reel,” says Sudha. In the movie, the protagonist Dharma ends up adopting Charlie from the street.” My intention was to tell people to adopt an Indie or any stray dog. Charlie the dog lands on the street and is exposed to the elements, but survives these tantrums regardless. I ask you to give homes to dogs in need,” says Kiranraj.
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A caring, caring and responsible team
According to Sudha, every person on set was kind to animals. Kiranraj says his team feeds many indies and has passively adopted dogs from CARE. Passive adoption is when animals stay at the shelter, but their upkeep is sponsored by a donor.
Actor Rakshit Shetty is a dog lover. Actor Raj B Shetty has about 7-8 indies. Kiran, Rakshit and actor Sangita Sringeri have also passively adopted dogs from the CARE shelter. Child actor Adrika enjoys spending time with animals. Lavya, who plays the dog-hating mother of Adrika in the film, adopted an Indie dog that was abandoned on the roads in the Miniforest Park area – she named him Charlie.
Recently, Rakshit’s Paramvah Studios, which produced 777 Charlie, pledged to donate 5% of the film’s profits to selected NGOs across India working for animal welfare.
Puppy Mills and Breeding Mills Present in Bangalore
Karnataka including Bengaluru has several unlicensed backyard breeders. These breeders operate puppy mills with female purebred female dogs that are bred indiscriminately and kept in terrible conditions. They engage in continuous inbreeding – this often affects the health of puppies. In the film, Charlie’s character is that of a backyard rancher.
As a puppy, Charlie is tortured by the backyard breeder and ultimately abandoned. Charlie’s sorry past then attracts Dharma’s attention. The breeder is eventually arrested and the police confiscate the dogs from the puppy mill. Animal welfare activists in Bengaluru would surely pray for such results. In reality, there are no checks and balances for dog breeders.
The Dog Breeding and Marketing (DBM) Rules 2017 and the Pet Shop Rules 2018 set out the structure, regulations and general controls to ensure responsible breeding and avoid cruelty. Breeders must be licensed to breed and sell, dogs cannot be offered for immediate sale, and puppies must be at least two months old. Dam protection, medical testing, proper care and kennel facilities are clearly defined. This implies that even home breeding falls under the jurisdiction of the above law.
Why are so many dogs abandoned?
Animal shelters such as CUPA and CARE are always full of abandoned purebred dogs. People buy a dog and often are unable to honor the responsibility of seeing the dog throughout its life. As a result, they end up being abandoned in shelters or abandoned in the streets. Sudha says, “For every dog purchased, an abandoned shelter dog is denied a home.”
Read more: Puppy love ends as COVID lockdown lifts
Demand for Labradors up after 777 Charlie release
Apart from the positive reviews, the film was also criticized for giving way to the increased demand for Labrador puppies, especially in Bengaluru.
Kiranraj is saddened to see people interested in paying to buy a purebred dog, “That was not the goal at all.” He explains that the film conveys that local Indians and abandoned dogs like Charlie should be adopted: “In fact, at the end, the protagonist even says that there are a lot of Charlies waiting on the street for a loving home. We used a breed like Charlie’s just to talk about breeding and its perils; it doesn’t mean that only Charlie can give that love and that connection. All dogs can.
Raj Shetty wrote on Facebook: “Love has no race. Let’s love and own an indie,” signing on as the “proud dad of 8 indies.”
After all, as Milan Kundera, the Czech writer, says, “dogs are our connection to paradise”. Even if not literally but figuratively, dogs could be our connection to heaven. All of us who have had the experience of truly loving and living with a dog have indeed reached heaven, at some point. The relationship that dogs and humans share is unconditional and pure, which only brings out the best in humans.
Dogs facilitate the fulfillment of man’s purpose in life: to become better versions of themselves. 777 Charlie has made an excellent effort to showcase this relationship on screen and we’re sure moviegoers will connect and sympathize with it.