This must be a bit stale news for you, but I thought I need to say this. Read on!
I didn’t watch MS Dhoni: The Untold Story until this Sunday owing to two prime reasons.
- I am not a fan of cricket and I cannot understand the mass national euphoria behind the game, the hefty sums paid to the players, and why M S Dhoni should be hailed as a hero. It is just another sport, another player! There are many more deserving sportsmen who struggle to meet the ends and continue training, while only the cricketers walk away with money, fame and Bollywood girls!
- Then I also heard not so savoury comments about the film from the leading critics self-qualified to tell you, from behind their computers, if the product of months of labour of a creative team is worth spending your 300 rupees, whose opinions can influence 1000s who want to spend that money.
So I refrained. There was nothing tempting there for me. Until a friend took me to PVR this Sunday to watch a new English movie which was fully booked. Gingerly, I entered the screen where MS Dhoni: The Untold Story was being screened.
When I saw the long running time, I cringed. I expected the next few hours to be filled with high intensity melodrama, preaching, loud background music, Dhoni’s childhood struggles, the corrupt officials, and a nationalistic climax where the hero works on the collective psyche of the nation, rising above all obstacles like a super hero. A true blue Indian film.
I was greatly relieved to see there was very little melodrama and cliché when the little Dhoni and his introduction to cricket was being played out on the screen. The narrative was fresh in its honesty and normalcy. I was hooked.
Then came Sushanth Singh, looking funny as the young Dhoni in the school team, computer graphics rendering his frame thin and lean, his face chopped of its square jaws and the end result making him awkward looking. I was reminded of Rajat Kapoor’s tweet that the real Dhoni looked much better than the reel Dhoni. I had to agree!
But as the film progressed, and as I could see much of the melodrama was stripped off in a straight forward storytelling, I relaxed. The story plays out very linearly, chronicling each milestone in Dhoni’s illustrious international career, with real life footage where real Dhoni’s face is morphed to the reel Dhoni’s by computer graphics.
Maybe this is where the critics disagreed, the way a simple story is told in a simpler way. The skimming of controversies, not taking names, no smart nose-digs as one critic pointed out. Maybe they were expecting more nuances, more sub plots and a deeper meaning in everything going on in the screen. More complex turns in the narrative, more drama reminiscent of any biopic that came out in India. A search for cryptic and elliptic.
Most of them say, in the second half, there is no detailing of his life in Cricket arena. No dressing room banters, no interaction with team mates, the stalwarts like Sachin, Ganguly etc. either only mentioned or just shown from the back. Well, that would have been an amazing feat, wouldn’t it? Getting all the busy, famous players on a single frame! Seems next to impossible to me!
Meanwhile, Sushanth Singh, as Dhoni, takes you on a story of passion, love, family bonding and the ultimate strength and victory. He infuses the character of Dhoni with a genuineness, warmth and earnestness so much so that after a few scenes I forgot the glaring disparity in resemblance that the reel Dhoni has to the real Dhoni. Surprisingly, I could relate more to the reel Dhoni.
His performance is natural, spirited and measured. In no scene does he go overboard, become preachy or resort to melodrama (thanks to the director as well). He delivers a stand out performance in that his performance doesn’t stand out, but blends with the narrative as one. His cricketing shots are fabulous and he recreates Dhoni in the way he walks, talks and emotes. He doesn’t try to be the real life Dhoni though, he himself is Dhoni, and it’s his life. His struggles, ambitions, heart breaks and his success.
So, when the movie ends, and as the final parting shot, they were showing a real picture of the real Dhoni, I had difficulty accepting that this, in fact, is the real life Dhoni. Sushanth had ingrained my mind so much so that I wanted this story to be of Sushanth Singh Dhoni instead of Mahindra Singh Dhoni. That, in my opinion, is the success of an actor.
So, to answer that infamous by now tweet by Rajat kapoor, I would say that Sushanth not only looks as good as the real life Dhoni, but this reel life Dhoni connects better to me than the real life one. Maybe, I haven’t seen the real life one in person to see how he comes across.
But Sushanth can keep his head held high. Since not only does he act better than Rajat Kapoor, I am also sure he will look much hotter than the tweeter when he is in his 50s. A fifty year old hottie!
Here is a big Salaam to Sushanth. You nailed it buddy!