Neeraj Pandey has proved himself as a master story teller yet again. MS Dhoni belongs to a different genre than the thrillers Neeraj is known for, but his grasp over this story never wavers. Credited for the screenplay along with Dilip Jha, Neeraj has obviously researched his subject well. The film may present a one sided picture of Dhoni’s journey, but that does not dilute the impact the film will have on the audience.
The first half of the film devotes to the humble beginnings of Dhoni and his journey towards his entry to the Indian team. It is a fascinating portrayal because of its realistic treatment. A large part of the film has been shot on location, lending the film an authentic feel. The typical friend gang in a small town in a lower middle class neighbourhood has been superbly captured. The lingo is just right, not the exaggerated stereotyped version that most filmmakers resort to while depicting people from Bihar. Watching the film, you get the feeling Dhoni was destined to be what he ultimately is. Not interested in cricket as a young lad, he was pulled in by his teacher Banerjee (Rajesh Sharma) mainly for wicket-keeping skills. That was the step to many more stairs leading him to dizzying heights.
It didn’t come easy for Dhoni. Lack of resources and being tucked away in a small town were his major obstacles. Like most families Pan Singh Dhoni (Anupam Kher) did not want his son to end up in in a lower end job and believed sports to be a distraction from the primary path that could lead Dhoni to success- good grades in studies. However Dhoni was a dreamer who could not spread his wings wide trying to keep his family happy. He finally risked all when he gave up a seemingly “safe” option of a ticket collector’s job after struggling in it for three years. Even then, things were not easy for him. He could have been forgotten as an also-ran, a la Amit Deshpande, who was mentioned in the film as a consideration for the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2000 but never made it. Interestingly, Dhoni was not even a consideration for the team.
Destiny smiled on him in the guise of the Talent Resource Development Wing of BCCI that started a program to spot talent independent of the local state cricket associations. After that one break, Dhoni never looked back.
The second part of the film focusses on Dhoni’s successes on the field as well as his romantic liaisons – his first girlfriend Priyanka (Disha Patni) and his to-be-wife Sakshi (Kiara Advani). Cricket buffs may not be too interested in the romantic track, but it adds to the rounded view of Dhoni as a person. It must be difficult to separate the true from the opportunists when you are a national sensation. Maybe that’s why the running theme in Dhoni’s serious choices were women who did not know of his star status. The film befittingly ends with Dhoni’s highpoint in his career when he led India to victory in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. That match has the power to stir up emotions even now.
Sushant Singh Rajput excels in the titular role. He proves that he has extensively studied Dhoni’s mannerisms and his way of speaking. Such is his attention to details that he has even held the bat the way Dhoni does. This performance will be a milestone in his career. Anupam Kher and Rajesh Sharma are as usual top-notch.
The only downside is that the film is too flattering. The film does not bring up any of the controversies that plagued Dhoni with any seriousness – IPL spot fixing charges, his rift with team mates or how his many endorsement deals changed his life and personality. On the other hand, this film can be a source of inspiration to the many young Dhonis who are struggling in anonymity. It can inspire the many strugglers in other fields who are tempted to throw in the towel. Dhoni’s determination is an attitude to be emulated. Definitely, a film for repeat viewings.
Rating : 4/5
Starring: Sushant Singh Rajput, Kiara Advani, Disha Patani, Anupam Kher, Kumud Mishra, Bhumika Chawla
Director: Neeraj Pandey