STORY: The biopic on India’s celebrated skipper, MS Dhoni (played by Sushant Singh Rajput) begins on a rabble-rousing note. But after this World Cup scene (which Neeraj Pandey’s film will, of course, return to at the end), the narrative backtracks to a quiet afternoon in July 1981 and Dhoni’s birth in a Ranchi hospital ward, while his father Paan Singh Dhoni (Anupam Kher), a hard-working lower-middle-class man, waits nervously outside. A series of well-constructed vignettes follows: Dhoni as a boy being coerced by a coach to give up football for cricket, and to take up wicketkeeping (though he prefers batting); the support of his friends as it becomes evident that he has special talent and drive; the misgivings of his father, who has sensibly conservative ideas about what constitutes a secure future; repeated frustrations followed by a job in the Railways and the possibility of becoming a “bada aadmi“.
REVIEW: If you are a diehard fan of MS Dhoni and cricket (in that order), you are bound to love this film, which reveres its protagonist. Despite the glorification, what works is Sushant’s impeccable portrayal of a stoic Dhoni and the latter’s inspiring untold story – his journey from being a ticket collector to a renowned attacking batsman/wicket-keeper/captain.
Sushant internalises his character and becomes MSD, without heavily mimicking the cricketer. He even nails his iconic helicopter shot and restrained personality. The actor scores a winning knock. The film also boasts of a spectacular first-half, which showcases Dhoni’s initial struggle as an aspiring professional cricketer. It reminds you why sportsmen deserve the fame and money they get.
Neeraj Pandey recreates Dhoni’s Ranchi life beautifully. He keeps it authentic and relatable. This one scene shot at Kharagpur station particularly stands out. Sushant is seen trying to make his way through a sea of people. It’s him going against the tide, summing up Dhoni’s life journey as well. Supporting actors deserve a special mention as their performances tug at your heartstrings. A scene featuring Yuvraj Singh (Herry Tangri) is outstanding.
However the biopic loses its momentum in the second half with Dhoni’s love life getting undue prominence. Also, the cricketer’s questionable decisions or possible vices are mostly overlooked. His tiff with the senior players (Sehwag, Gambhir), rivalry with Yuvraj Singh, love-hate relationship with the media, team politics and criticism faced on occasions, barely find a passing reference. As a full-fledged biopic, this one-dimensional approach towards the lead character leaves you a tad discontented. But since you see the film through Dhoni’s eyes, it’s justified as one rarely sees faults in oneself.
Nonetheless, this cricket movie hits sufficient sixes making the ‘Dhoni Dhoni’ chants reverberate in the theatre.