Review | MS Dhoni – The journey of excellence you didn’t know
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Starring: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anupam Kher, Disha Patni, Kiara Advani
Run Time: 190 minutes
When India is reeling at 114 for 3 against Sri Lanka in the cricket world cup final of 2011, a man decides to take charge of the situation. It helps that he is also the captain of the team. He silently walks past the crowd, enters the ground and creates history.
The cricketer’s image of rotating the bat as if he is wielding the sword is etched in our memory.
On April 2, 2011, India reaffirms its faith in the hero who was selected into the team through BCCI’s tier-two city programme.
To create a true, full-blooded biopic, filmmakers need a free-hand: MS Dhoni The Untold Story, which claims to give us Mahendra Singh Dhoni Uncut, is much more generous with details from his childhood and his days of the struggle than from his blazing tenure as star wicketkeeper-batsman-captain of the Indian cricket team. Here, director Neeraj Pandey takes us 15 years earlier when Pan Singh Dhoni (Anupam Kher) is a pump operator in Ranchi. The local stadium needs water and that requires him to wake up at eleven in the night. He waters the stadium in a hazy winter night. Pan’s little son watches him from the balcony of his government quarter, and probably this is the moment when the kid decides to make it big in life.
It’s this unfussy, matter-of-fact portrayal that makes his personal story ring severely true for millions of lives, especially in mofussil India. The dreams and desires trying hard to take wings in the cramped but homely quarter number 142 of Mecon Limited in Ranchi would reverberate with any lower middle class home. Where the father always chides the kids to study lest they turn out like him—low in stature, where mother is always the mediator and children themselves want much more out of life than what they have been granted.
The film has a terrific sense of place—the many stadiums in small towns, the coal mines, the railway stations. Pandey lets in the details unobtrusively, has some fine little heartwarming touches. The romantic interludes, seemingly unnecessary eventually tot up Dhoni’s heroism—stealing a moment away to come to terms with an intensely private grief, stealthily finding time for love in the glare of media and public eye.
MS Dhoni – The Untold Story catches the game at the grassroots—but instead of the usual portrayal of bureaucratic stranglehold what you see is an unquestioning commitment and passion for the game in the many officials. In a way, the film then becomes a piece of nostalgia, harking back to the innocent days of cricket. Sushant Singh Rajput has shown immense talent and excellence and it’s the genuineness of the characters in the background which adds to Sushant’s performance at the centre—be it Anupam Kher as his reticent father, or Rajesh Sharma as quirky coach Banerjee.
This film had potential to present us with the recent Indian cricketing story, warts and all. Sadly it’s more hagiography than a biography: the cricketer is reduced to being a singing-romancing Bollywood hero rather than a top-flight cricketer, a master strategist, and a captain who led from the front. I saw a lot of wet eyes in the theatre. But to Pandey’s credit he also forces a few tears to be dropped for the supporting cast of Dhoni’s life—not just the family and friends but the faceless, selfless supporters who left everything behind to watch him hit the ball—“Mahi maar raha hai”. He seems to have hit yet another six with the film. True champions have that edge that no one else does: on that score, the real-life Dhoni hits it out of the park, every single time.