MS Dhoni has been one of the most exhilarating and enigmatic Indian cricketers of the 21st century. His rise from being a small-town boy (Ranchi) to becoming one of the most successful contemporary captains in the annals of cricket is nothing short of a fairy-tale. Over the years, cricket fans have come to associate Dhoni with his quicksilver wicket-keeping, swashbuckling strokeplay, rasping rejoinders and jaw-dropping tactical moves as a captain, yet one knows quite little about Dhoni, the person, and his personal life.
Dhoni has a healthy contempt for the media and has agreed to do very, very few one-on-one interviews. When he’s not playing cricket, he is not even accessible to his team-mates (VVS Laxman would vouch). Give his elusive proclivities, there has always been an air of mystique surrounding him.
As I walked into the cinema hall to watch his biopic, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, several questions crossed my mind: whether the biopic would be able to capture all his major cricketing feats and failings, how much would be get to know about Dhoni, the person & his private life, and would it stay true to facts & remain real or would it be reduced to being a hagiography (as is case with most of the biopics).
Here’s the detailed analysis of the movie based on several benchmarks:
As far as accuracy goes, the director Neeraj Pandey and his team deserve distinction marks. They have not been economical with the truth and there are no howlers in the movie as far cricketing facts are concerned.
All the matches shown in the movie are in correct chronological order and their outcomes, as well as Dhoni’s personal contribution in those matches, are accurately portrayed. One can complain that most of the matches (and montages) are rushed through but due to time constraint, this is inevitable.
Feats and failings
Almost all mammoth feats of Dhoni in limited-overs cricket are exhibited. His first international ton against Pakistan at Vishakhapatnam in 2005, his barnstorming exploits in the ODI series in Pakistan in 2006 (along with then Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff’s eulogy), the 2007 T20 World Cup victory, the CB series triumph in Australia in 2008 and, of course, the 2011 World Cup win.
But the Test career of Dhoni has been completely ignored barring the Kolkata Test of 2010 against the West Indies. It is extremely disappointing to see Test cricket, which is hailed as the ultimate form of cricket, being cruelly sidelined.
What is even more distressing is that Dhoni’s failings in international cricket are completely glossed over except a brief mention of India’s ignominious first-round exit in the 2007 World Cup (50-over). But Rahul Dravid, not Dhoni, was the captain in that tournament.
The lowest phase of Dhoni’s captaincy was when India were whitewashed 0-4 in a Test series in England as well as in Australia during the 2011-12 season. His poor overseas record as captain as well as batsman does not get a mention either.
In fact, the movie, perhaps purposely, ends at the 2011 World Cup victory which is just the first phase of his captaincy. The second phase, in which he copped tremendous flak and a string of defeats, is totally blanked.
Dhoni, the cricketer and captain
Almost the entire focus in the movie, after Dhoni makes it to the Indian team, is on his batting exploits. He has been shown practicing wicket-keeping as a child but after opting to play competitive cricket, the emphasis is totally on his batting. There are so many montages of Dhoni taking bowlers to the cleaners, but not a single one showing him pulling off an astonishing stumping or grabbing a cracking catch.
The truth is that Dhoni is perhaps the finest wicket-keeper of his generation, especially when it comes to keeping to spinners. He has executed many supersonic stumpings and it could have taken only a minute to showcase or highlight collage of his wicket-keeping heroics. When there can be umpteen footages of his batting prowess, why cannot be few of them devoted to his exceptional glovework?
Also, the tactical nous of Dhoni, the captain, is left entirely unexplored. One would have loved to see the strategic acumen of one of the best minds in Indian cricket and the rationale behind some of the most ingenious tactics he deployed as a captain.
Dhoni is known for zippy zingers and amusing ripostes during press conferences. His witticisms are delectably droll and often leave people in splits. But there aren’t any such quirky quips during the movie.
On the brighter side, insights like who taught Dhoni his signature ‘Helicopter’ shot, how he warmed up to the game and the people who stood by him during his salad days embellish the movie.
Dhoni, the Person
The movie charts out the personal life of Dhoni in great detail. Be it his family, friends, benefactors or love interests, all characters have adequate roles. Dhoni’s equation with his friends and benefactors is explored intricately. Details such as how Dhoni’s ex-girlfriend died in an accident and how & where he met his wife Sakshi get ample screen time.
His earthy perceptiveness and unwavering resolve are nicely woven into the narrative without being rubbed into the face. However, there are many sequences which come unstuck and could have been easily snipped.
The movie, rather predictably, dodges all the controversial aspects of his cricketing Odyssey. Barring one scene when Dhoni feels irritated after watching a news channel proclaiming a rift between Sehwag and him; there are not many references about the major controversies pertaining to him.
Even the senior cricketers he recommended to the selection committee to be axed, before the CB series in Australia in 2008, are not named. That’s an unnecessary cop-out as almost everyone is aware who they’re.
His close association with N Srinivasan, once the all-powerful President of the BCCI and the owner of the Chennai Super Kings, which caused many a ripple, finds no mention. The allegation by former selector Sandip Patil, that Srinivasan saved Dhoni’s captaincy when selectors want to discard him is not addressed; neither is the allegation that Dhoni, as the skipper of CSK, was aware of nefarious activities of Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan during the matches of Indian Premier League (IPL).
Moreover, Dhoni’s equation with his team-mates is largely relegated to the background. Accusations of him, as an Indian captain, favouring Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, while dishing out rough treatment to Yuvraj Singh isn’t accosted or explained.
Sushant Singh Rajput, as MS Dhoni has done a fine job. The amount of hard work he had out in getting the different looks of Dhoni at various points of his life, emulating his body language & diction, and practicing the ‘Helicopter’ shot is quite evident.
He pitches in an earnest and earthy performance. Anupam Kher, as Dhoni’s father, is first-rate as usual. Disha Patani, as his ex-girlfriend adds charm to the movie. Kiara Advani, as Dhoni’s wife Sakshi, is passable. Rajesh Sharma portrays the role of Dhoni’s coach with gusto.
The music is the sore point of the movie. No song, except Besabriyaan, leaves an impact. In fact, too many songs hamper the pace of the film and are completely dispensable. Without these songs and some scenes from Dhoni’s personal life, the movie would have snappier and more succinct.