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 recognize the Indian captain. And there’s Valentine’s Day mush connecting the two. But there’s so much sweetness and humor 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 star rating.