Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumika Chawla, Anupam Kher, Rajesh Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Disha Patani, Kiara Advani
Direction: Neeraj Pandey
Is it possible to go wrong with a cinematic presentation on Indian cricket’s coolest captain?
MS Dhoni’s surreal obscurity-to-fame life story makes for a fascinating tale, but the script staggers under the deadweight of the avoidable, delving too much on the redundant at the expense of stuff that would have set the pulse racing.
The film takes too long to unfold, but it does start well.
Neeraj Pandey begins with India’s 2011 World Cup win – the high point of Dhoni’s career. As a member of the audience, I could feel the theatre pulsate with the same energy that a stadium does when India plays a final. Even though you know it’s been five years since India’s big win, you still want to stand up and cheer for the reel-life Dhoni as he steps in at the most crucial stage of the a must-win match.
We cut to a flashback and the first half is basically Mahi’s growing up years and his struggle to play for Team India. It’s indeed intriguing to watch how India’s most successful captain ‘happened’ to cricket almost by chance. Actors like Rajesh Sharma and Kumud Mishra get their Biharisms spot on and that adds flavour to the plot.
It is only post interval that the tempo drops. Once Dhoni makes it into the team, we want to see more of the iconic captain and his winning ways, his relationship with fellow players, the dressing room camaraderie. Instead, too much time is spent developing the romantic angle.
I would have loved to see how overwhelming it was for a small-town boy once he broke into the big league. Did he rub seniors the wrong way with his rustic frankness? Did he share strained relations with some celebrity members of the team? Did he have his favourites? How did he build team confidence? How did Dhoni manage to pull-off an almost impossible victory in the T20 World Cup with a largely inexperienced and young team?
Alas, there is no insight on how the team dynamics panned out. It is almost as if Dhoni worked in isolation as captain, happily cut off from reality in his bubble of cinematic confidence.
The crucial matches of Dhoni’s career are all real footage that intermittently cuts away to reaction shots of his friends and family members. The pattern is followed so many times, that it becomes repetitive and monotonous.
If anything, the filmmakers manage to make insipid a story that is inherently so compelling and lends itself so beautifully to a compelling screenplay.
There are most definitely some moments that will give you goose bumps and the Dhoni’s frustration often tugs at your heartstrings. But this story – the tale of one of India’s favourite sons – could have been much more.