Category: Cricket

M S Dhoni : The Untold Story

M S Dhoni : The Untold Story

Here’s a tip about the movie M S Dhoni : The Untold Story. If you are one of those people who do not understand why millions of Indians go crazy about a silly game that may go on for a few hours, a day or five days and then – because you fail to understand it – you end up rationalizing the behaviour of crazy cricket fans by invoking theories about poverty or social inequality, do yourself a favour. Don’t watch this movie. M S Dhoni : The Untold Story starts with an amazing sequence of Dhoni in the dressing room at the 2011 World Cup finals. Kohli’s wicket falls, India is three down. M S promotes himself in the batting order and goes on to bat¹. This scene has ADRENALINE written all over it in size 86 font but there are some prerequisites :

  • If you have not spent a sizeable amount of your life glued to the TV screen watching cricket as if your life depended on it (It did! I swearz!!)
  • If you have not missed sizeable length of your school/college because of cricket
  • If you have not experienced – deep down in your gut – the visceral, bodily reactions that are associated with the ups-and-downs of this game

then I am afraid you will not feel anything. Go watch something else. If you watch the movie anyway, you will end up intellectualizing it and miss the whole point.

There is nothing special about the Indian obsession of cricket, by the way. Americans and Japanese are crazy about baseball and the rest of the world, including a sizeable number of Indians, loves football. Sports invokes in us the hunter-gatherer instincts inbred by millions of years of evolution. Ancient Greeks understood this better than anyone else and that’s why they started the Olympics. In today’s sports, there is a cerebral part involved in strategy and planning but when it comes down to split-second action, it’s pure instinct. There was no time to think when a wild beast attacked a Homo ergaster.

I am always apprehensive about watching a Bollywood cricket movie mainly because they have such a low tolerance for technical details. Leaving aside Azhar because I have not seen it, Lagaan is the only cricket movie that comes to mind which had very high production values. Unfortunately, it did zilch for me. Sorry, mesa no liking the movie. Everything was perfect but I could not connect with any of the characters. Even Rahman’s music left me unmoved. Same thing happened with Visaranai – well made movie but not for me. Next.

I had a different experience watching M S Dhoni : The Untold Story. As usual, your brain goes on recording objections but in the middle of that I found myself imagining what it must have been like to make this movie. I realized that right off the bat (pun intended), writer-director Neeraj Pandey had to make a crucial decision. What will go in the movie and how to show it. Dhoni is one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket. A biopic on him would naturally include other players as well. But then you are in a fix. If you want to include Sachin, Sehwag and the rest of the team, that will probably take many more years in the making and it will also shift the focus from Dhoni to Indian cricket.

Neeraj Pandey found a way that has been used quite successfully in the past, most notable example being my favorite movie on the Watergate scandal – All The Presidents Men. Robert Redford and director Alan J Pakula showed real footage of president Nixon, vice president Agnew and a few others. When the reporters interact with persons in the White House, you only hear them over the telephone. Pandey does the same thing. With the exception of Yuvraj Singh played by Herry Tangri, none of the other players are shown, except in real television footage.

This made me wonder. If he did take the trouble to cast Herry as Yuvraj, why not give him some more room? Second half of the movie lacks scenes from the dressing room or practice sessions. Apart from a brief discussion of the famous ‘helicopter shot’, there are no technical details of game. This could have been overcome by some scenes of Dhoni and Yuvraj. Ideally, I would love a movie or Television series on Indian cricket similar to Bodyline, but that’s just me.

These are minor objections. Sushant Singh Rajput portrays M S Dhoni brilliantly. Perfect casting. I cannot think of any other actor at present who could have pulled it off. Sushant comes from the same area as Dhoni which makes his Bihari accent perfect. More importantly he conveys Dhoni’s inscrutable character very well. I loved the Ranchi set up in the first half. Alas, the soundtrack was a huge disappointment. Forget remembering the songs afterwards, I won’t be able to tell you the song while it was being played.

The most common question asked after you watch a movie is “Did you like it?” What is almost never asked is “Will you watch it again?” There are many movies that are good, we like them but we may not want to watch them again – at least not immediately. Some movies connect with you in a way that you actually want to watch them again and again. This has less to do with what are the pluses and minuses of the movie and more with the way in which you experience the movie. M S Dhoni : The Untold Story is one movie that I can watch any number of times. I don’t think I can say that for any other current Bollywood movie.


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1. Here is an example of the trivial things I get distracted by while watching a movie. In this sequence, Dhoni has his back to the camera and he takes off his T-shirt to change. While doing that, the T-shirt gets stuck for half a second, a very usual occurrence. My question is : was is accidental or planned? If it was accidental, then that means Neeraj decided to keep it to make it more natural. If it was planned, it would be difficult to do and must have taken at least a few retakes. Which scene would be more effective : taking off T-shirt smoothly or with a snag? Or – and this is probably the answer – there is nothing in it either way, so for the love of Zaphod Beeblebrox, will you stop with the trivialities and watch the movie?