Pre Movie expectations
The MS Dhoni movie trailer had got me so excited that I asked my close family friend Raman Chugh to book a first day show with both families in midst of our amazing Delhi vacation. The biopic of India’s first ‘small town’ cricket captain, a rags to dreams story and leader of a sport which is a religion in India was enough to make the hair stand. I expected the movie to dedicate its first half to his rise from nowhere and second half dedicated to India’s most successful captaincy stint. At most points of the movie, I expected the crowd to cheer, shout and jump ala Lagaan style.
Neeraj Pandey’s flick started well and entire first half we stayed glued to seats, despite it looking a tad lengthy. This was due to excellent performances from Rajesh Sharma (the school sports teacher who converted MSD from goalkeeper to a wicketkeeper), entire support cast, the brilliant scenes of friendship (watch MSD’s friends beg for sponsorship, drive him entire night to Calcutta, forget their own cricketing or otherwise dreams to align to MSD’s), the small town struggles of a sportsperson (how the association forget his selection letter) and above all, the towering Sushant Singh Rajput.
Sushant Singh Rajput
Sushant must have given a lot of his blood, sweat and tears in mastering MSD’s mannerisms, walk, bat swing, calm demeanour, shots, shrug and lot more. Frankly he looked more MSD than the real MSD! There are social media videos of his 150 days training to master this all. With performance of a lifetime it can be said, any other actor would have struggled to give this intensity nor carry the film as well as Sushaant did.
Where the film dips
While Neeraj Pandey put extreme efforts and went into intricate details of MSD’s rise (the Bihari lingo, the fish market scenes, the importance of a local star in town level matches, kharagpur station scenes), he delayed inbringing out the more exciting phases of MSD’s career. Eventually ignoring some. At no point did the hall cheer for a shot, nor at the ending real MSD still freeze did I feel as deeply about the man, as I feel otherwise.
MSD is often touted as selfish, cunning one, who rode his luck to become India’s best captain, cricket’s best finisher ever and stayed rigid to his ways (team selection between 2008-2014). None of these aspects were touched in any depth nor his leadership skills in carrying CSK amidst bedlam of corruption around him.
MSD > 12 jobs
There was more than half a decade span when MSD was doing the lead batsman, captain and wicketkeeper roles of four teams – CSK and India in all three formats. That’s 12 full time jobs. The next closest busy person in world cricket then (Sangakkara, De Villiers) were doing around 7-8.
After Sourav Ganguly, Dhoni would be Indian cricket’s biggest contributor. Not just putting Ranchi on world map but also mastering the art of chasing totals in cricket. Since Dhoni’s debut (2004), India have shed their permanent tag of ‘poor chasers’ and in fact have best chasing records for over a decade now. Dhoni’s penchant for staying in the game long and never panicking is one big contribution he gave to cricket.
All of the above not explored in depth.
Engaging but doesn’t stay deep in game
The movie never ‘stays in the game’ to engage audience after the interval. It’s just two love stories – intertwined to appeal to non cricket audience – his debut struggles (which should have given more credit to Ganguly on backing him), 2007 World Cup debacle and two world cup winning finals. Dhoni’s efforts in making India the best test team, winning Champions trophy and bad away losses 2011-2014 to the point of resigning from tests have all been missed.
The movie should have taken upto his tests retirement point. The above not to take away what was shown was good too. The movie is engaging enough but not at the level MSD has engaged our lives over the past decade, Dhoni’s love interests – Kiara & Disha – are two hell of looking ladies and one which confirms belief that India’s has no dearth of pretty women.
Biographies of Sourav Ganguly & Yuvraj Singh
During the movie, often I told my buddy Raman, that India must make two more biographies – of the fascinating southpaws – Yuvarj and Sourav. My guess is all Indian cricket fans will feel the same too.
Rating : 4/5. Must see for all cricket fans and kids, despite the flaws. Cricket fans will give it repeat viewing on television for sure. Each of the four kids with us – James, Arushi, Angel, Ishav – loved it.
Box Office Prediction: With a steep 104 crore budget (most of it would have gone putting Sushant Singh Sharma in real 2003-2011 match frames, ala Forest Gump), the movie is expected to clock 50+ crores over the weekend. Excitement at Chennai is sky high – despite the movie disappointingly ignoring his CSK stint – and I feel it should have a domestic box office collection of above 150 crores. And a big career leap to the much deserving Sushant Singh Rajput.