When wickets were falling and the captain promoted
himself in the batting order, and strode out to win the World Cup for his
country, it captured the essence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Writer-director
Neeraj Pandey wonderfully encapsulates that defining moment to tell an inspirational
and engrossing tale of wicket keeper, batsman and India captain MS Dhoni.
With all the highs of a limited overs match, keep a
leisurely 190 minutes aside to get the full Dhoni experience and you’ll come
out emotionally enriched.
His days as a ticket collector and that life-changing
U-turn when he gave up the security of a job in the railways to go after his dream,
is in the narrative. But there’s so much heart that Neeraj puts into the film
that Dhoni’s success story ultimately becomes your own. The coach who spots his
natural gift when he’s still a schoolboy, selectors and players like Ganguly
who gamble and give him a chance and his family led by father Paan Singh, add
all the emotions required to make it a story worth retelling.
When Mahi misses an important flight, you sigh with
him. When he hits a ton, you fly with him. And you can’t help but feel his
patriotic flutter when he gets his first jersey to play for India.
When he falls in love, you smile too. When he loses
his first love, you understand why he lost his next match. You feel his grief
even as irked fans burn his effigy outside his bungalow.
Dhoni’s helicopter shot and his garage full of beloved
bikes, are all there but Neeraj keeps the story free of clichés. There’s no
Captain Cool strutting around nor is there emphasis on the changing lifestyle
of the family. It’s as subtle as having two large dogs quietly join the family frame.
There is cinematic license taken in the similarities
between Priyanka, his first love who didn’t know his name and Sakshi, his wife,
who too didn’t recognise the India captain. And there’s Valentine’s Day mush
connecting the two. But there’s so much sweetness and humour in the romances
that it makes Mahi that much more endearing.
You can’t help but compare M.S. Dhoni with the weak biopic on Azhar that deservedly lost the
box-office match. But, unlike Azharuddin who is immensely disliked for letting
his country down, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a legion of admirers who break into
applause when he does the victory round after winning the World Cup. And that
makes all the difference.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s performance is like watching
boundaries and sixes from a master batsman. He is outstanding as the
much-admired cricketer. Sushant and Anupam Kher as father Paan Singh, the
humble pump operator who’s moved to be proved wrong by his son, emote and adopt
the body language of their characters. Pretty Disha Patani as girlfriend
Priyanka lights up the screen with her presence. Kiara Advani as wife Sakshi is
like a warm security blanket.
To Team Dhoni:
The Untold Story, all I’ll say is, well played!
For a film that’s as thrilling as India winning the
World Cup again, Dhoni: The Untold Story
gets a 4* rating.
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author