Monday, 10 October 2016

M.S.Dhoni:The Untold Story (2016)

The perils of real-to-reel interpretation are many, especially when you make a film on the impenetrable and probably India's greatest cricket captain ever, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Deserving Story
First, certainly a story waiting to be told. From the quietness and constricted ambitions of growing up in small-town Ranchi, his unconventional knack for big-hitting, frustrating time as a railway ticket collector and a tough, cliffhanger climb to cement his place in the Indian cricket team, all high voltage film material. 
Only, story & screenplay writers Neeraj Pandey (also director) and Dilip Jha could have worked out the content selection better, especially in the film's melodramatic second half. We are left with a hero-worshiping culmination, rather than an insightful study of Dhoni and cricket.

Great First Hour
M.S.Dhoni:The Untold Story sparkles in its first hour and half, seeping with the routine ordinariness and time-wrap of a sleepy town. 
An aspiring and gifted cricketer MS Dhoni (Sushant Singh Rajput, path-breaking lead role) has to convince his stubborn yet reasonable father (Anupam Kher, excellent) about his fiery, single-path ambition - cricket, cricket and cricket. 
He is supported by his elder sister (Bhumika Chawla,efficient), faithful friends, coach (Rajesh Sharma, the film's scene-stealer) and first employer (Kumud Mishra, in fine form). The love tracks are the film's weak link (Disha Patani & Kiara Advani, both adequate), bordering on cheesy, despite an unexpected tragic bit.  

Weak Links
All through the punishing running time, even in the slack second half, events occurring outside the cricket field repeatedly absorb us. Booming background music (Sanjoy Chowdhury) and a pathetic soundtrack (Amaal Mallik, Rochak Kohli) almost clean-bowl the movie. Several scenes would have worked better with minimal background score and certainly minus songs.

Cricketing Hiccups
Cricketing scenes require mentioning other cricketers and controversies. But nobody is mentioned unfavourably, reducing the match scenes to diplomatic mockery. 
A craftier, snipped screenplay would have worked wonders. From Dhoni's decisive abandon of his mundane job at Kharagpur railway station to his legendary first century at Vizag in April 2005, the film could have stuck to unraveling in daring detail two prime matches - the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup Final and the 2011 One-Day World Cup Final.

M.S.Dhoni:The Untold Story is not a lost cause for director Neeraj Pandey (Special 26). There are so many moments to indicate that the film could have hit all the balls out of the park. It is undone by lack of judgement in what to retain, how much to retain and a curbed freedom in storytelling. 
A valiant, sincere attempt, undone by its own dilemma - just how much safe do you play that BCCI and people depicted on screen don't sue or raise objection to the content?

M.S.Dhoni:The Untold Story is stumped by its own defiant safety, a feeling of 'missed opportunity' lingers big. Watch it for the wonderful performances and some real charming bits. If only it could have come together cohesively, like a MS Dhoni innings.  

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