was originally published on this site
Rating: 3 stars
Quick take: An authentic personal account of MS Dhoni’s life
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story is a biopic that promises to give you never-heard-before details about an Indian sporting hero. The untold story of an Indian cricketing legend, under whom the Indian cricket team ascended from being good to great. The film reserves to contrasting halves for its storytelling effort. The first half establishes Dhoni as a character, a person and a boy who dreams big and hits bigger. The second half portrays him as an achiever and a lover. What the movie doesn’t do is get intimate. At least not with the cricketing great. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s personal life has been depicted with detail, even his reported shy and aloof nature has been drawn out on the big screen to good effect. But the film does not touch upon a cricketer, his journey through dressing rooms and pitches and definitely not his conflicts or controversies. But the personal story of MS Dhoni, combined with director Neeraj Pandey’s no nonsense approach to filmmaking does give you a decent watch. At 190 minutes (a staggering 3+ hours) the movie does take its time. But it never drops the ball. It always manages to draw you in and that’s not such a bad feat.
The story kicks off with MS Dhoni’s birth and goes all the way up to his winning six in the 2011 World Cup final. The first half is set in ’80s and ’90s Ranchi as a bright-eyed Dhoni discovers the trappings of cricket over football. His prodigious talent makes him an instant favourite in the local circles. As he grows up, so does the imminent wait for his big break. His lower middle-class family does everything in their power to make Dhoni an international cricketer. The chances don’t come easy and the travails of a small town boy trying to live his dream make the first half of MS Dhoni authentic and genuinely fascinating. In reality, Dhoni is perceived as a simple and humble man, despite his herculean achievement and talents. The film’s setup does justice to that fact. It gives you a genuine and insightful peek into the life of an aspiring cricketer. It makes its play on the fact that dreaming big is okay and that achieving dreams doesn’t need miracles.
The second half though is an all new ball game. It just breezes through Dhoni’s cricketing life keeping focus on his romances and humility rather than his involvement in the politics of cricket. There is a brief mention of his aggressive selection policies, but everything else from his professional life is just conveniently omitted. You never quite get intimate with India’s most successful cricket captain. The focus is kept solely on a small town guy hitting it big on a global stage.
While MS Dhoni the film does not have the all-rounder ability of the person it’s inspired from, it excels within its limitations. Director Neeraj Pandey crafts an engaging story with Dhoni’s life. His efforts, especially with detailed production design and screenplay writing make even the 190 minutes seem balanced and nimble. Mention must also be made of the superb use of CGI in transferring Sushant Singh Rajput’s face onto real-life footage of Dhoni. The visual effects quality on offer is top notch all through.
The biggest contributor to the impact of the film though is its lead Sushant Singh Rajput. His efforts are pitch perfect. With every passing minute all you feel is that you’re actually watching Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Not some actor trying to be a cricketer and a confident but restrained man. He lives the part and makes Dhoni come alive. His cricketing shots and his body language are a masterclass. Sushant Singh Rajput’s efforts alone make the movie worth a watch. Supporting performances by Anupam Kher, Bhumika Chawla, Rajesh Sharma and Kumud Mishra are perfectly adequate. The heroines Disha Patani and Kiara Advani only come up in the second half and both ladies have marginal roles. Disha Patani though, does stand out with her screen presence.
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story is a long film but it does well to both entertain and engage its audience despite its length. While it may not draw on major insights into Dhoni’s cricketing career, it does make for a compelling story through his personal life. If you ever wanted to get up close and personal with MS Dhoni the person, this is the film to watch. Its a solid biopic, one that makes a true hero out of its subject.