Beware Dogs: A Film on Indian Ocean

Spandan Banerjee’s film Beware Dogs: a Film on Indian Ocean is about a day in the life of Indian Ocean or what it would have been like to be that lucky outsider among four exceptionally talented individuals during their rehearsals time, at a dilapidated pre-partition house in Delhi. Here at The Ajnabee we are all about being outsiders looking into the magical worlds of cinema, fashion, culture and music and this film is like a poster project to our cause. But besides its incredibly poignant voyeuristic appeal, the film will make you an instant fan of Indian Ocean -- if you have yet to hear their music -- or delight you to the core if you are already among the band’s millions and millions of fans. The music will definitely take over your heart, while your eyes will be delighted by the sight of four men who clearly had amazing chemistry and dynamics. And your mind will be lulled into a wonderful world where directions to a place can sound like a beautiful song and men discussing Republic Day sounds like the most important speech this side of the UN. Beware Dogs is a music-lover’s dream come true and thankfully, it’s now available in the US on DVD through FilmKaravan.

You might have noticed by now that I keep using the past tense when I write about the band featured in this film. Men who HAD amazing chemistry, etc. It’s because besides it being a wonderful collector’s item for anyone who loves and follows Indian Ocean, Beware Dogs is also a visual testament to a group that will never be the same again. On Christmas Day 2009, Asheem Chakravarty, the Man with the Golden Voice as fans like to call him, died after nearly two months in a coma, from complications of a heart attack he suffered while in transit at the airport in Doha, Qatar. When I first watched this beautiful film last January, I cried at the sadness of it all, and this past week, when I watched the DVD again, with all its wonderful behind-the-scenes extras, I cried again. It’s almost unbelievable that the four will never talk the same way again, or play quite the same sounds again…

More than any other documentary I’ve seen about a rock band, Beware Dogs touches on the poetry of this foursome, on their wonderfully unique bond and their ability to instinctually find a sound together, arriving to the solution of a musical problem almost simultaneously. But then Indian Ocean is not just a rock band! It’s enchanting to watch them work through harmonies, discuss chords and inspirations and talk candidly about their own individual role in the quartet. That’s probably what touched me the deepest and made me miss Asheem so deeply. The idea that he won’t be a part of them enjoying the chai, or singing the melody of a new song for the first time. That moment is gone.

While I watched Beware Dogs, I could not help but think of one of my favorite Hindi films Rock On! and how that foursome must have been somewhat inspired by these true-to-life rock stars, at least physically. There is an attractiveness within each of the four -- Asheem, Rahul, Susmit and Amit -- that transcends generic good looks, perhaps what I can only think of as the indescribable magnetism of those truly gifted, the beauty exuded by the real geniuses of the world!

The greatest strength of Banerjee as a filmmaker is his invisibility, never trying to show off his talent through a maverick shot or intruding on the vision of the men of Indian Ocean. We know, from his other projects, that he can do it all and if you doubt my statement check out his site at Overdose Films. Banerjee teaches us everything we need to know about the band without talking down to his audience or making us feel uncultured for not knowing what he clearly does. And speaking of knowing, I’m hardly an expert in music, but I do know what I like -- a mixture of Ghazals, Reggae, Flamenco and songs from the Maghreb -- and Indian Ocean represents a fantastic mixture of all the above.

For any music lover or lover of life, Beware Dogs is a must-have in your collection. But don’t wait too long to make your purchase, there are only limited copies available and NO, you can’t borrow mine!

Images courtesy of the filmmaker

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One Response to “Beware Dogs: A Film on Indian Ocean”

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