Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a name that needs no introduction. India is a country where cricket is a part of people’s lifestyle and cricketers are treated like demigods. Even a person, like me, who has not seen a single cricket match in his life, is aware of the kind of respect the mere mention of his name commands. Neeraj Pandey is one of the best filmmakers we have today and each of the three films (‘A Wednesday’, ‘Special 26’ and ‘Baby’) he has directed so far, has made a lasting impact on the audience’s mind. When he announced that he would be helming ‘M.S.Dhoni: The Untold Story’, one assumed that the story of one of India’s most celebrated cricketers was in safe hands and one could expect a riveting and insightful biopic in the offering.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Zeeshan/Sushant Singh Rajput) is a young boy who has a keen interest in football. One day, the sports teacher Banerjee (Rajesh Sharma) spots him serving as the goalkeeper and believes he has the potential to become a good wicketkeeper. When he asks Dhoni what his thoughts on cricket are, he firmly replies that he has not much of an interest in the game and he prefers playing football, badminton and tennis. When Banerjee asks him to give wicket keeping a shot, he agrees. Dhoni does very well as a wicketkeeper but is more interested in trying his hands on the bat. As time progresses, Dhoni’s prowess as a batsman and as a cricketer, in general, comes to the fore and he battles several odds to become the legend that he was destined to become.
Though I am not even familiar with most of the cricketing jargon, I am abreast of the glory Mahendra Singh Dhoni has brought to the court. The film, which chronicles several important events of his life, helped me develop a better understanding about the man. But, it was not as insightful as I had expected it to be. The film does give one a glimpse of the hardships he goes through but there is no doubt that a major part of it serves no other function than glorifying him. A person like M.S Dhoni deserves to be shown in his full glory. All his achievements and successes should be, rightfully, acknowledged but the film maintains an even graph without too many galvanizing revelations that would have made the film really special. I have a faint knowledge of the several controversies that he was embroiled in at different stages in his career and there is just a fleeting mention of one of them in the film. Pandey conveniently refrains from stepping into the grey areas and makes sure that Dhoni is presented as an idealistic, untarnished person who could do no wrong. Some of the clap-trap moments overemphasize on Dhoni’s greatness or the great individual he is about to become. The scene in which a young Dhoni takes a few steps forward and then comes back to tell Banerjee “hard ball se darr nahin lagta” seems over the top.
Even though the film mostly plays out as a show reel to Dhoni’s achievements and does not quite turn out to be as perceptive as one was expecting it to be, it is a consistently engaging film with a plethora of heart-warming moments. It is interesting to find out that a cricketing legend, at one point of time, was not even interested in the game. Though the film makes you believe that Dhoni did not go through anything drastically painful that could have broken his spirit, it takes you through some key incidents of his life that shaped him into the person he is today. The struggles that he went through in his personal life are carefully balanced with some hardships that he encountered on the personal front. His relationship with Priyanka (Disha Patani) and Sakshi (Kiara Advani) has been portrayed briefly. The Priyanka-Dhoni track comes across as rushed up but Dhoni’s meeting with Sakshi which finaly culminates into them getting married, has been put across very well. The film, expectedly, ends on a high as Dhoni leads the team towards winning the 2011 World Cup. Neeraj Pandey holds the film rather well even when the screenplay (Neeraj Pandey and Dilip Jha) gets a little sketchy or some scenes turn out to be uninteresting. The dialogues (Neeraj Pandey), peppered with the appropriate accent which you hear people in Jharkhand speaking with, have a lot of weight. The majority of the songs (Amaal Mallik) are melodious and are placed appropriately in the film.
Sushant Singh Rajput is, perhaps, the best acting talent that has emerged in the Hindi film industry in the recent past and with this film, he is bound to receive the impending stardom that he rightfully deserves. While his performance is flawless, the effort he had put in to get into the skin of a season of a seasoned cricketer is evident. Kiara Advani and Disha Patani have brief roles but both of them, especially Kiara, leave a strong mark. Anupam Kher delivers a nuanced performance and makes one relate to the concerns he has as a father. Neeta Mohindra, an accomplished theatre actress, is excellent as Dhoni’s mother. Bhoomi Chawla delivers a very natural performance in her turn as Dhoni’s supportive sister. Rajesh Sharma and Kumud Mishra deliver memorable performances in small parts. Zeeshan does a fabulous job as the young Dhoni.
The film is more of a tribute to Mahendra Singh Dhoni than one which helps you get a deeper insight into the man. Dhoni deserves all the success he has received as a sportsperson but instead of a hero-worshipping vehicle, one was expecting a film that would, apart from highlighting his achievements, explore a more vulnerable side of his personality. Despite the film not delivering all that one would have liked it to, it still turns out to be a largely engaging fare.