I would like to start this review by saying that Neeraj Pandey is one of my favorite directors in Indian cinema today. I love almost all his previous films including the Bengali film that he merely wrote and produced (Royal Bengal Tiger). M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story was supposed to be one of my favorite films of the year. It was supposed to redeem the lost pride and grandeur that films like Azhar had spoiled for the Sports/Bio-epic genre. There was little said about the film and the marketing campaign too didn’t give a lot away. There were speculations about the cast and also about the issues that the film was going to raise. However, after sitting through this 3 hour long film I can safely say that all of that and a lot more has been put to death, nail shut in a coffin that is this film.
The film starts with M.S. Dhoni being born in a hospital where the doctor nearly mixes him up with a girl. The story progresses and we are introduced to a young Dhoni who is much more into football than cricket. His coach played by Rajesh Sharma inspires him to pick up the gloves but keeps him away from batting. Dhoni starts playing and in a matter of years makes it to the senior teams. His game gets bigger by the day and is soon selected to play in the elite league. Inspite of his numerous great performances, he is unable to break out into the national league. Soon something happens which makes him give up his current job and join the Railways. Joining the railways doesn’t bring him any solace either as there too he meets with little success on and off the field.
This portion of the film drags unpardonably. It’s an endless drudgery from the moment he grows up till the point he gets the Indian cap. The film feels repetitive and forced in every sequence. Dhoni meets with success. Dhoni fails. Dhoni meets with Success. Dhoni fails. The same keeps happening just with the change in the style of the wagon wheel. There are endless situations and scenes that lead nowhere. There are prolonged scenes of him going through his daily chores, his practice sessions, his not so significant matches and journeys that should have ended in a blink. If that was not boring enough, the film doesn’t show any sense of urgency or energy in these portions. The characters simply walk through their performances and so do we as the audiences. It has to be given to the director that he did a good job with the sequences in Ranchi, wherein little Dhoni is growing up. This is the only time in the film when you feel a warmth in the performances and are actually interested in the proceedings. But whatever he gains in these sequences he loses terribly in the ones which follow, where a clearly morphed Sushant Singh Rajput portraying a younger Dhoni is shot terribly. These portions look so fake and abnormal that I couldn’t look at them.
The story continues and Dhoni leaves his job at the railways after an oddly done surreal sequence and comes back to concentrate fully on his cricket. He soon makes the cut to the national team and then the film jumps from him scoring his first big score to him falling in love, to him becoming the captain, to him losing his love, to him trying to fire the big trio, to him finding his to-be wife, to him scoring the winning runs in the World Cup Final and blipppppp. The film ends. Yes! it is that sudden. I got a feeling as though the director had got tired of teh story and wanted to just wrap it up. This half of the film is also affected by an age old cliché of Bollywood films to show its protagonist as the one and only. This whole segment is just an absurd fan-homage to Dhoni. You will feel as though there was just one cricketer in the whole team as all the victories are just attributed to him.
Real footages of matches are shown with Sushant’s face morphed over Dhoni’s. I felt cheated in these sequences primarily because now I knew that they didn’t even bother to shoot a single cricket match on their own. Atleast that’s something we got in Azhar. Also they try to con us by showing the footage of the board meeting wherein he tries to fire the big trio in the trailer. No one ever mentions their names. These characters are never shown for real apart from the stock footage and the discussion that happens is extremely superficial. This proves that the director had the intent of going to that place but didn’t have the courage to go all the way. So he took a path half way between. That was just disgusting. Again Dhoni is shown as some sort of a messiah who single handedly won the World Cup. As far as I remember, the World Cup victory was a collective effort. All the big matches shown are for minutes and that too are stock footages with only the initial low-level matches shot on actual camera. In a film like this, we expect to have a feel and gusto that would make us roar for the protagonist. How can your blood boil when the sequences are so insipid. I have seen most of the matches shown here and I didn’t need to see the highlights of these matches again with Sushant’ face replacing Dhoni’s.
The only saving grace of this film is Sushant Singh Rajput’s spirited act. He really does well and gives you a feeling that if dealt with better, he could have been a great Dhoni. Unfortunately the poor writing, very little meat in the role in terms of twists and turn, character development and drama leaves him stranded. Anupam Kher plays his father and his is as stereotypical as one could get. Kumud Mishra has s smallish role and he shines as always. Kiara Advani and Disha Patani play his two beus and their role is too small and insignificant to pass any judgment on.
Overall, Dhoni is a mammoth disappointment for me. It had the potential to be a rousing tale as the drama, conflict, romance and sporting action was all there in the tale. It can even be sighted as India’s greatest underdog story. But what we get instead is 3 hours of pointless and under cooked fan-service of Dhoni. It’s too lengthy, it’s too preachy and makes you think that Dhoni is Indian cricket. It’s not even bold enough to point fingers at the people that it wants to. Above all it’s just boring. M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story neither entertains nor enlightens.
Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)