M.S. Dhoni – an untold Story : A Review

Image result for ms dhoni the untold story posterNeeraj Pandey directs Sushant Singh Rajput and Anupam Kher in M.S.Dhoni the biopic on India’s most successful cricket captain. A man of few words, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has lived an incredible life, it is the classic underdog story where the underdog is an outright over achiever only limited by his circumstances.

 

Neeraj Pandey directed one of the finest movies to have come out in the last decade A Wednesday. Ever since he has been one of the most anticipated film makers, Special 26 while adored by many was a disappointment for me as were his other collaborations as a producer. I was left shocked when the credits rolled that this was directed by Neeraj Pandey. Where A Wednesday was a fast scoring high adrenaline T-20 match between India and Pakistan this was a laborious 5 day test match on a flat pitch.

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The story starts with Dhoni’s childhood a football goalkeeper Dhoni reluctantly agrees to keep wickets for the school team. There is a charming moment when a precocious Dhoni responds to his teacher stating very firmly that his reluctance to play cricket has nothing to do with the fear of the hard ball. There seem to be hints of his reluctance towards the game and his father’s job as the pump operator for the local cricket ground, but it is left unexplored. It moves to a teenaged Dhoni played by a poorly CGI-ed Sushant Singh Rajput made to look unnaturally young. Through the many ups and downs we journey with Dhoni to when he is selected to play for the east zone team but cannot make it for the flight on time and misses out on his big break. The movie seems keener on ticking off the milestone moments on Dhoni’s journey to the India team than focusing on a coherent story. And when it comes to milestones it misses out on the defining ones like when he is selected to lead the T-20 team, when he takes on the ODI captainship, his vice-captainship before that.

 

Sushant Singh Rajput does a fine job portraying the very essence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mahi to his millions of adoring fans. Mahi is a man of few words and his actions speak for him, Rajput does that job brilliantly, underplaying the character with subtle nods to Mahi’s mannerisms. Disha Patni as Dhoni’s doomed lover Priyanka is spectacular in a brief time she spends on screen. I just wish the director hadn’t over done the whole “we have enough time right?” bit. Once was enough to allude to the upcoming tragic end. The introduction to Kiara Advani as Sakshi is about as cute as it gets. Anupam Kher transforms before our eyes without the need for CGI. The actor who plays Mahi’s mother and Rajesh Sharma who plays Dhoni’s coach Deval Sahay deserve special mention for the realism they brought to the roles they played.

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For a story as spectacular as Dhoni’s journey, this biopic seems like a disservice. Abysmal camera work where you get dizzy every time the camera zooms in or pans out too quickly. I also seriously question the editorial choices that were made. One look at the imdb page and you see names like Ram Charan and Fawad Khan being credited for playing Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli respectively and they are nowhere to be seen in the movie at the same time an insane amount of time is spent in tenis tournaments, the Railways cricket audition and tennis ball tournament. Also as a director Neeraj Pandey missed a massive opportunity to use real footage of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, rather than try and digitally try and fit Sushant Singh Rajput into those frames. Look at Narcos, or biopics like Frost Vs Nixon and you can see the gravitas the actual footages lend to the overall story.

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The final scene however does bring back happy memories! That six to clinch the 2011 world cup the eruption of the wankhede stadium that was echoed across India by its billion strong cricket lovers and the architect of it all – Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I just wish the film was half as unconventional as its subject matter then maybe it could have done justice to this fantastic character of game who changed the face of the gentleman’s game.

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Rush – A Review

Ron Howard directs Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl in the Formula 1 Drama Rush based on the true story of the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt.

Sports themed movies are fertile ground for telling a compelling story and captivating the audience attention by getting them to cheer for the underdog against insurmountable odds and then letting them bask in the shared glory. Rush does not stick to this formula of the underdog versus the rest of the world. Rush is about two protagonists who have a very different take on the sport and in their own way are great at what they do. While acknowledging each other as their nemesis and arch rivals they do take turn to acknowledge the rival as being their driving force in wanting to do better.

Armed with a story steeps in the annals of the Formula one legends Peter Morgan pens a taut screenplay and scenes come alive and the back and forth between the two leads seems believable and engrossing at the same time as there are no grand dialogues just awkward sentences between a cocky Brit and a methodical Austrian as they try to one up the other both on the track and off it. Anthony Dod Mantle’s work behind the camera is exceptional in every single way possible. The side track shots of the cars zooming past are adrenalines pumping as well as the scenes at the Japanese grand prix are heart stopping with the use of slow-mo.  Hans Zimmer provides another excellent score for a Ron Howard movie and in my opinion tops his Angels and Demons’ score which till date remains a personal favorite of mine.

Of the lead it is very hard to pick who does a better job as both the leads shoulder the entire responsibility of the movie on their very able shoulders.  While Chris Hemsworth is good looking charismatic and cocky, Daniel Bruhl is awkward, methodical and measured in his approach. Hemsworth shines in the scenes he has a humorous line or two to deliver but he does equally as well with the scenes which require in him display his vulnerable side.  Bruhl is enigmatic in his action speaks louder than words approach and shows he has as funny side as well. Olivia Wilde is mostly wasted by the other female lead Alexandra Maira Lara as Marlene Lauda is understatedly brilliant in her stoic and poignant portrayal of the woman who stood by Lauda’s side when he was recovering in the hospital.

The movie is not only for the formula one enthusiast as I am the farthest thing possible from a F1 enthusiast. It is an entertaining and moving feature on two of the sports biggest legends and a rivalry that is mutually symbiotic in that it almost kills Lauda while it still manages to give him enough drive to want to come back and reclaim what is rightfully his.

Ron Howard has created a gripping drama which happens to be based on a great rivalry in one of the worlds most popular sports. The acting is top notch the visuals are rich and textured and the music is amazing – I cannot recommend this movie enough – go watch it in the biggest screen possible as this is some heart racing  and pulse quickening drama that is entertaining to the boot! Don’t miss this movie.