Film: M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Kiara Advani, Disha Patani, Herry Tangri, Anupam Kher, Bhoomika Chawla, Mukesh Bhatt, Rajesh Sharma
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Neeraj Pandey (‘A Wednesday’) who is famous for twist happy thrillers, attempts to go for a more humane effort this time round with his M. S. Dhoni biopic. Focusing on the tabloid specific intrigues in Dhoni’s personal and professional life, Neeraj’s script avoids the major controversies and keeps the story inclined towards a much milder meter of reckoning. So while you get to see his youthful foibles, his ordinary middle class upbringing and limitations thereof, his alleged love antics with Deepika Padukone and Lakshmi Rai (of course, the names have been changed in the film) – you don’t get the major controversies and accusations that have chased his captaincy of the Indian cricket team and his IPL stint.
The movie strictly follows the early part of the superstar cricketer’s career right up to his world cup winning performance. His initial interest in football, badminton, tennis, his friendships, struggles, responsibilities, compromises and life’s many hurdles are depicted quite faithfully here. The small town (Ranchi) milieu is depicted with heart. The film is quite authentic in its assay and makes Dhoni’s spirited personality shine through fruitfully. Dhoni’s stirring tenure as a star wicketkeeper-batsman-captain doesn’t get as much coverage though.
M S Dhoni (Sushant Singh Rajput) is the small town boy who rises from the ranks to the annals of cricketing history with talent, perseverance and never-say-die spirit. He fulfils his father Pan Singh’s (Anupam Kher) dream of a secure job as a ticket collector with the Indian railways and also pursues his own ,with support from his sister (Bhoomika Chawla) and eventually makes it to the state selection trials in the nick of time.
His friends and his ever optimistic coach (Rajesh Sharma) help him make it to the selections and glory in all his triumphs thereafter. He was spotted by BCCI’s Talent Resource Development Officer Prakash Poddar in Jamshedpur in 2003 and had a disastrous debut season in 2004/5 being run out for zero in his very first match. A year later, there was a swift turnaround in his form. Promoted up the order after the early loss of Tendulkar, he did what was expected of him, scoring an unbeaten 183 chasing 299 against Sri Lanka, and won his first match for India.
While the pre-interval focus is mainly on Dhoni’s upbringing, his youthful endeavors and passion for cricket which gets stymied by a conservative middle class family mindset -in favor of a secure job, the post interval part runs aground with his various link-ups and patches up to a winning world cup climax.
This biopic, while faithful to Dhoni’s early milestones, fails to dig in deep enough to make things interesting. While skimming through the many accusations levelled at his head, the script muddies around in the various relationship link-ups and his eventual love story with Sakshi (Kiara Advani), his soon-to-be-wife. The second half in fact puts his sporting efforts in the background while serenading his amours and basically tends to tedium thereof. The 3 hour plus runtime also makes the going a difficult one.
Dhoni’s cricketing milestones are as vast as his successful innings as captain of the Indian team – so obviously not every four or six or winning innings could be incorporated here. Unfortunately, even the world cup triumph after 28 years of near misses doesn’t lend the film its adrenaline gush. The innings against Pakistan is a resounding reminisces though. The scripting is not evenly laid out. What should have been an underdog’s triumph entirely ends up becoming an ungainly sports-romance.
The first half moves along at an eventful pace even though it’s about a life less ordinary but the second half loses steam and becomes quite shifty with its romantic overtures and rabid flourishes in the cricketing arena. The cricketing aspects have been worked on beautifully and Rajput is imminently believable as the rookie cricketer gunning for gold standard.
In fact Sushant Singh Rajput is the soul of the film. It’s his performance alone that elevates this patchy work into something intriguing. He does not attempt to be a doppelganger here, instead his studied efforts to imbibe the Dhoni mystique is so steadfast that you begin believing him to be the true original. Matching stroke for stroke and expression for expression, Sushant Singh Rajput brings Dhoni’s early history to reel life with great conviction. And that’s just praise for an actor who is barely a few films old and has given his heart and soul to every role he has essayed so far.