October 1 2016
Is the film about India’s most successful ever Indian cricket captain box office gold?
MAKING a biopic can be a tricky affair, especially if the subject is still alive.
It can also produce an anodyne film which has little zest or oomph, and is merely in the end, a parade of images and music, masquerading as entertainment.
Thankfully “MS Dhoni, The Untold Story” is a solid piece of work and does just enough for the fan and stranger (to his story) to do its subject justice.
It’s hard to say how well though – when the subject itself – MS Dhoni – is already something of a hero and totem to anyone who follows Indian cricket.
But Neeraj Pandey as director-screenwriter (“Special 26”, 2013 and “A Wednesday”, 2008) has made a decent film that some fans will really enjoy and quite possibly, take to their heart too.
If they’re the romantic sort, the music produced by Amal Mallik will stir them just as much as the cricket.
However, at just over three hours long, it does test your patience a little and the last 20 minutes or so of the engaging first half sags a little.
After the intermission it picks up rather predictably on the playing side and is still a satisfactory watch with a few lump in the throat moments, possibly.
Pandey is strong with the young Dhoni growing up in small town India, which rarely produced many cricketers of any note, if any.
There are a couple of quibbles (and perhaps no more) in that there is no explanation of Dhoni’s promotion and evolution as a captain – though we do get flashes of that in brief exchanges with the selectors, where he demands cricketers who can field for the shorter form of the game.
Pandey is also weak on professional cricketing mentors – we hardly see anyone else apart from Yuvraj (‘Yuvi’) Singh in this film. Their rivalry and parallel paths are hinted at – they played against each other at Under-19 state level and Singh won that particular encounter and many would have predicted Yuvi to have the more glorious future in front of him.
But Dhoni is a striver and believes in application and you get the impression for him, talent alone is not enough.
Pandey is strong on Dhoni’s family relationships – especially with his father, played superbly as always by the ever reliable Anupam Kher. He also does small town life and the circle of close knit friends and supporters really well. It’s very endearing.
It isn’t all about cricket too – in fact the second half shows more real scenes of Dhoni winning matches and gaining ever greater popularity.
One real scene appears quite bizarre and almost unreal – or surreal – in the current context of India-Pakistan relations. The two have been exchanging a torrent of angry words at each other recently, but Pandey shows a time when countries were still touring Pakistan – India among them. He includes a post-match ceremony where former Pakistani leader General Musharraf extols Dhoni’s performance – seems hard to think any Pakistani could do the same now.
As you might expect this is not just a film about cricket and Dhoni’s romantic relationships come under the lens.
The two female leads – relative newcomers Disha Patani as Priyanka and Kiara Advani as Sakshi (Dhoni’s wife) – are excellent value. Both are easy on the eye, and Patani really sparkles visually, while Advani perhaps has the more acting to do. Datani already has a film with Jackie Chan. Both women have very exciting futures in front of them – let’s see whether they can fulfil their undoubted potential. Expect to see a lot more of them.
The Priyanka storyline is a little jarring – it certainly is the ‘untold’ bit if it really occurred but we will leave it at that.
And what of lead Sushant Singh Rajput…well played, sir.
You feel like you get the sense of the real Dhoni – Captain Cool himself. He isn’t the most expressive player around, but as a leader and a cricketer, he embodies a certain equilibrium and quiet purpose – something more Indians would do well to possess. Okay, that’s slightly tongue in cheek and a joke, but you wonder whether the real Dhoni thinks the average Indian is way too emotional…
Rajput gets all that and still looks good and ‘hot’ as some might put it.
This film may well stand the test of time – it does illustrate the good times and bad (to a small degree) and it does beg the question, what will Dhoni do after cricket? He may be a natural coach…and perhaps a new chapter will begin. (Sailesh Ram)
ACV rating: ***(out of five – would have got another ½ if it had been a bit shorter)
*’MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ is on release worldwide now…(from September 30)