Seldom does one see a visionary director like Neeraj Pandey. His scripts are as different from each other as possible and from the usual Bollywood fare-A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby. Yet, he is no Anurag Kashyap. Nor is he a Bhansali. Nor a Johar. Pandey is, without a doubt, the most technically sound director in Hindi cinema today. He is in a class of his own, much like his subject.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni. A name every cricket fan knows. Easily India’s best wicketkeeper-batsman and one of the country’s finest cricket captains, there is nothing that I can say here about MSD that you won’t know.
The film covers the important parts and personalities in the life of Indian cricket’s limited-overs skipper from his birth in 1981 to the final of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. The interesting part is that much of the film is off the field, but it still manages to be enjoyable, unlike Azhar. It is also very real. There are no caricatures in Neeraj Pandey’s latest outing.
There are a few chinks in the armour of the film, though. Post-interval, you will see once again, like you did in Special 26, the reason why Pandey should steer clear of romance. That the two romantic tracks manage to be engaging is more due to the competence of the actors than anything else. The visual effects, executed by Prime Focus, are shoddy and amateurish for a film of this scale. Prana or Red Chillies would’ve done a far better job. Compositing Rajput’s face on Dhoni’s is done well, but the green screen areas are poorly-done.
The screeplay by Pandey and Dilip Jha is engaging and fast-moving, which is a surprise, given the film’s runtime. It flows smoothly and doesn’t jar, though it could’ve been more fluid during the romantic bits. Sudhir Palsane’s cameras move superbly, capturing the cricket like never before on celluloid. He uses close-ups effectively and utilises hand-held cameras exceedingly well. Pandey sticks to the ‘Untold Story’ and directs marvelously within the framework he sets for the film. He has no intention of covering an enormous amount of cricket. Yet, one is felt wanting for more because of the lack of behind-the-scenes scenarios. The editing is crisp.
Anupam Kher brings Pan Singh to life brilliantly and flourishes as the slightly conflicted Indian dad. The actress playing MSD’s mother is also very good. Bhoomika Chawla is like most didis, supportive and by the younger brother’s side even when the chips are down. The three actors who play Dhoni’s friends and benefactor also leave their mark. Herry Tangri turns up as a snobbish, ultra-cool Yuvraj Singh and does his job well. Kumud Mishra and Rajesh Sharma both do complete justice to their roles. Disha Patani as Dhoni’s late girlfriend Priyanka is decent but Kiara Advani’s Sakshi is a sincerely-performed and rather well-enacted role. The star of the show is, for obvious reasons, Sushant Singh Rajput in the titular role. The effort put in by Rajput is evident as he pretty much nails all of Dhoni’s physical attributes, his way of speaking and most importantly, his cricket. The batting and wicket-keeping have the unmistakable stamp of Dhoniness to them. Rajput deserves a standing ovation for his portrayal of one of India’s most-successful cricket captains.
The film glosses over controversies but it does so intelligently. Azhar tried showing the controversies and failed miserably. The makers had put forth their agenda for the movie much before the release, so don’t go in expecting a lot of dressing room gossip. Plus, controversies are subjective as per a person’s point of view. The film clocks in at a bum-aching 190 minutes but doesn’t seem like a drag, much to Pandey’s credit. Credit is due to the writers for not screwing up the reality in the name of dramatisation, as Prasoon Joshi did for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Watch the film for the inspiring story of a lad from Ranchi, for Neeraj Pandey’s direction, for some fine performances by the supporting cast, and for Sushant Singh Rajput.
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story: 3.5/5.
Image: Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
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