Right of the bat and this is one of the times that phrase is perfectly appropriate, Dhoni is a legend among men, I’m not a fan-boy nor some Dhoni-bhakt, but an avid sports fan and I can differentiate between the good, the bad, and the ugly in sports and Dhoni is definitely the good.
The movie is probably a decent reflection of him, but in no way is “him”. Bollywood has issues, deep rooted issues in making movies. Our weakest ability, perhaps lies in our incompetence in spinning a yarn and this is best depicted in our biopics and how shoddily we treat them. Movies likes The Dirty Picture, Mangal Pandey, Main Aur Charles, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Jodhaa Akbar, Sarbjit are all recent (shoddy) attempts at making biopics, personally I believe sports movies bear the brunt of this substandard film making and movies like Bhaag Milka Bhaag, Azhar, Mary Kom, and well….Dhoni, highlight how we just can’t accept a story without masala in it!
Dhoni’s story has all the elements of a great sports biopic. A kid from a small town with dreams so big that they could swallow his city whole, added to this is his gritty determination coupled with a never say die attitude and an unwavering self-belief topped off with a calm composed confident demeanor that oozes credence and has this capacity to trickle to the 1 billion people who watch the sport as a religion. Welcome to the Dhoni show.
To start with, the movie is stolen by the lead. Sushant Singh Rajput is by and far the best thing about this 3 hour epic. Sushant Singh Rajput has spent time and effort in ape-ing our captain cool and the results are clearly visible. The walk, the talk and the approach is all something that SSR has spent hours and probably months practicing and on the 30th of September, he could pass off as a body double for Dhoni.
Although SSR monopolizes the screen time, the supporting cast does a decent job. From Anupam Kher, as the middle class father of a boy who cannot fathom sports as a career to his mother, who cares only about her son’s happiness and from whom flows his belief of being a success someday in the future. From his sister (Bhoomika Chawla) who believes he will grow up to be a big man (Read as “RM in Railways”) one day to his friends (honestly too many to name) who are his support system and his biggest supporters. The supporting cast is fabulous. The gorgeous Disha Patani who acts as Dhoni’s first love and Kiara Advani who eventually becomes Mrs. Dhoni aka Sakshi Singh Dhoni unfortunately are the ones who really kill the movie. (Though with due regard, it is no fault of theirs).
Whilst we could have seen a little more about the ‘behind the scenes’ of Dhoni’s decisions to remove senior players, or the path he took to become the Indian team captain or probably a few more juicy tid-bits which surround his aura, the movie takes a horrible and unrequired detour to map his love interest which in all honesty was just about as juicy as the stale momos we ate at the theatre. However if one were to judge basis purely acting skills the cast does a great job and although I have missed a few more of the key cast members, they are in no way a lesser part of the movie. (Just due to a limited word restriction that I skip them here.)
Neeraj Pandey is an enigma for me. The director of movies like A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby which are thrillers and pretty darn good, he took on the colossal task of recreating a national icon’s life in reel and ended up with a mixed bag. Simply put, the first half shows why Neeraj Pandey is one of the best directors in the country and the second half shows why Neeraj Pandey should never be given the camera to make a love story. Though, credit where its due and Neeraj’s style of shooting makes the movie really look like a sport drama, the continuous shots, the focus on the field and the timing of the shots is impeccable.
A special mention to the screen play writer(s) who did an honest to goodness job with the story and stuck to it as far as possible. This is where the movie is better than Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. A huge credit to SSR for his immense hard work and dedication for portraying Dhoni from the D to the I and this where the movie is better than Mary Kom. (I’m not going to compare Azhar since even Raaz 2 was a far superior movie as compared and that is saying something!)
Overall, the movie isn’t as great as it could have been. Following its strong first half, the movie collapses dramatically in the second half. The story lacks that certain punch that keeps the audience engaged and it is during THIS half when you start to look at your watch and realize “This is a very long movie!!” As a slight additional negative to the movie are the weak special effects, where SSR’s face is forcefully transposed in places, which do take away a little from the movie. Though it’s a small flaw and can be overlooked.
A good sports biopic ideally should be balanced and the movie does score on all aspects. It’s a good encapsulation of Sports, Drama, Emotion, Action, Suspense and Thrill. The movie is more than just a biopic and it is more an ode to friendship, to standing tall in the face of adversity and struggle, about dealing with responsibility, making compromises and “playing each ball on its merit” and all this, is the first half. The second is sheer crap.
I’d recommend for some of you to wait till it comes on the television and save yourself some money.