MS Dhoni: The Untold Story Review
As the reel life MS Dhoni hits Muttiah Muralitharan for a six in the last ball of the 2011 World Cup and the camera zooms into his covered face, the audience observes a sense of relief and disbelief in his eyes; the feeling that a man at the pinnacle of his journey feels. That moment is etched in every Indian mind, and Neeraj Pandey rightfully begins and ends the movie with it, bringing about a feeling of closure in the audience. Even though MS Dhoni: The Untold Story glosses over any controversies faced by the man and arguably doesn’t focus on the game of cricket as much as it does on Dhoni (it’s his biopic, not cricket’s), it guarantees to take the audience on an emotional journey.
The movie begins in the small town of Ranchi, where we first meet the expectant father Pan Singh Dhoni (Anupam Kher), who is visibly disturbed by the fact that he could have given birth to a second daughter, conveying the very real qualms and insecurities of a lower middle-class father. After Mahi has grown up a bit, we learn that his father is the pump operator of the local ground, and we begin to understand his reluctance of sending MS into the uncertain world of cricket. This is what Neeraj Pandey manages to capture very well; the way of life in a small town full of good-hearted people with limited means. Nobody dreams of a life bigger than a decent paying government job, and everybody is content with what they have.
Dhoni’s family, in a way, falls directly into the archetypes of a normal middle-class Indian family, complete with a strict father who places education over everything else, an indulgent mother who gives in to the desires of her children more often than not, a supportive sister and highly devoted friends. While this does seem cliched from the outside, the film manages to make each of them endearing in their own right.
Taking the fact that Pandey chooses to begin and end with the same moment further, the audience observes several other instances of him using a combination of literary devices and the camera to enhance this story. One favorite example is the bouncer problem, where Mahi’s boss at the Kharagpur Railway Station asks him to duck while life is throwing him bouncers, and the moment it bowls a juicy half volley, pull and hit it out of the park.
Another kind of technique that the director uses is conveyed in the moment when Mahi is at a pivotal moment in his life. If he chooses job security, he’ll never know if he could make it as a cricketer, and if he does choose to leave his job, he will be risking everything. The choice is presented to him in the form of a train that’s about to leave the platform, suggesting that he will not get this choice again and must make this decision now. This is a refreshing and unconventional way of showing instead of telling and resorting to dialogues to move the story forward.
Sushant Singh Rajput gives a career defining performance. His body language and mannerisms along with calm and peaceful demeanor resemble that of the former captain’s almost perfectly. What is even more astounding are his batting skills which have clearly been worked on a lot. The way he hits those trademark helicopter shots seem like they have come off MS Dhoni’s bat himself.
The one place where this movie falls short is the second half, which adds on more weight than it is supposed to carry. It could’ve done without the addition of the two love songs, especially the honeymoon song. This sort of undermines the overall tone of the movie. Moreover, it places a lot of focus on only Dhoni; his teammates are reduced to just a few shots from the back, and he is shown to be a one man army, a sole star. Anyone who is a fan of MS Dhoni will deny this, his team spirit is what makes him the legend he is now. The movie could’ve uncovered this mentor and captain side of his by showing changing room camaraderie and his communication with the players.
That being said, this movie is a must watch for MS Dhoni’s fans and cricket fans in general. The audience leaves the theatre a bit misty eyed, and that above anything is proof of a movie’s success.