Note: This review is written by a cricket journalist and not a movie critic
A major difficulty that stems in making a commercial film on sports personalities in India is the necessity for the filmmakers to please all its stakeholders. A few months back, Azhar, the biopic of Mohammad Azharuddin, failed to deliver an impartial, and all-encompassing representation of the beleaguered former India captain, rather giving a fanboy account of the cricketer.
But when Neeraj Pandey, who previously directed critically acclaimed movies like A Wednesday and Special 26, decided to direct a biopic on India’s greatest captain ever MS Dhoni, it seemed as if the audiences would finally be served with a realistic and objective account of the cricketer’s life story.
But much like Azhar, the opening credits of MS Dhoni – The Untold Story, mentions the film only taking inspiration from Dhoni’s life, and not being a biography of the cricketer.
The first-half is where Neeraj Pandey and his team deserves all the credit. The movie stands out before the interval, detailing extremely well-crafted snippets about Dhoni’s younger days. So much so that at the interval, you are left asking for more.
It’s the second half which is the culprit to what could have been a great movie.
It seems as if the filmmakers suddenly realized in the second half that the audiences aren’t only made of cricket experts, and that they also need to appeal to the ‘masala-loving’ masses of the country. And that’s where the movie falls flat on its face.
Two romantic angles (one of which is unknown to public) in the second half bore you enough that I even yawned on a couple of occasions. I believe the filmmakers took this liberty since the movie talks about the ‘untold’ aspects of Dhoni’s life.
Wouldn’t it have been better if, in the second half, the writers of the movie focused more on how Dhoni, the hard-hitting batsman, turned into the calm strategist and leader?
We could have been told about instances when he first met his idol, Sachin Tendulkar, or his conversation with Virender Sehwag on his way to 148 at Vizag. Or how he felt when he was handed the captaincy at a young age. Infact, becoming the captain was a critical phase in Dhoni’s career, and it does not find a mention in the movie.
Or even why he gave Joginder Sharma that final over in the 2007 World Cup, or even some little-known insights from the dressing rooms. These are things the audiences crave for.
Having said that, the movie is an extremely well-intentioned attempt to bring to light the story behind MS Dhoni’s spectacular journey from being a talented small-town boy with big dreams, to a World Cup winning India captain.
And Sushant Singh Rajput is outstanding in his portrayal of the former India Test captain. He nails all of MS Dhoni’s mannerisms to absolute perfection, and it’s so accurate that I got goose bumps on various occasions while watching the film, especially the scene where Sushant walks out to bat in the 2011 World Cup final.
The Bihari accent, the Dhoni gait, the helicopter shot, the adjustment of his jersey before facing a delivery – it’s executed with precision by Sushant. Also, MS Dhoni’s love for bikes, army prints, and leather jackets is well evident from the movie, also revealing the meticulous research that has gone behind making the film.
The movie also talks as much about people behind making Dhoni the man he is today, as it does about the cricketer.
His journey is like any other little boy in a small town. He has a father (played brilliantly by Anupam Kher), who wants his kid to focus on studies and settle for a safe job, rather than making a career in sports. A loving mother who supports him no matter what, and an elder sister (played by Bhoomika Chawla) who acts more as a friend to him.
There is also a sports teacher in his school (played by Rajesh Sharma), who is the first person to recognize Dhoni’s potential as a ‘natural’ wicket-keeper, as well as a bunch of supportive friends, who stand behind him in his struggling days.
Talking about the cricketing sequences on the movie - it’s extremely well presented with real footage from all matches used.
There’s a cricketing sequence in the movie that stands out where a young Yuvraj Singh (played by Harry Tangri), smashes a triple ton against MS Dhoni’s Bihar in the final of the Cooch Behar Trophy. Tangri is frighteningly similar to a 19-year old Yuvraj, and is seen having exchanges with Dhoni akin to his flamboyant personality, which is well portrayed in that scene.
Coming to music, the songs are soothing and have been kept to a minimum and efforts have been made that they don’t affect the narrative of the film, but even then they seemed a bit of a drag. The three-hour and five-minute long length also makes the movie a patience-testing exercise.
But having said that, the movie is a must watch for all cricket loving audience as well as the ardent MS Dhoni fans, who would love to know the story behind the making of the cricketer. For the rest, they can give it a one-time watch, just for the superb work put in by Sushant Singh in his portrayal of MS Dhoni.
It’d give MS Dhoni – An Untold Story a rating of 3 out of 5.