Film review 'Dhoni': No master-strikes, just repetitive defence

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Film review Dhoni: No master-strikes, just repetitive defence
Still from the movie

If it were a song, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story would have predominantly just one flat note, writes Deepa Gauri

By Deepa Gauri

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Published: Fri 30 Sep 2016, 2:37 PM

Last updated: Fri 30 Sep 2016, 4:42 PM

Director Neeraj Pandey's film version on the life of MS Dhoni is titled The Untold Story. There is little untold about his life, though. What you get to watch on screen is what has been repeated umpteen times in the media with a few exceptions here or there. 
A deeper insight into the man is largely missing, which is why you can watch this film - either as a die-hard Dhoni buff and get goosebumps, or watch as an average filmgoer and feel deprived at how the film becomes an exercise in docu-fiction. 
There is little drama or creative flair - the real exception being the seminal moment when Dhoni decides to quit his job as a railway ticket collector. Otherwise, the film sings the same monotonous tone, which is further compounded by the fact that Dhoni, in real life, isn't the sort who gets too expressive. 
For the first one hour, you watch the rise of Dhoni in school and his state with some curiosity. The mundane moments in an average Indian household are brilliantly captured by Pandey. There is a sense of repetitiveness too, as is normal in real life. 
That is when the fatigue starts to creep in. We get the feeling that the film has been strung together in a recreation of the life-moments of Dhoni, much like a Facebook story or collage. 
So we have the young but talented cricketer losing out from being selected to the Under 19 team, and then due to bureaucratic inefficiency, missing another chance to play a key tournament. It is pretty downhill from there in his personal life, as he finds himself being ticket collector by day and playing minor league 'tennis ball' matches by night. 
His fortunes swing when he makes the cut to represent India but fails to find form in the initial matches. And so it goes until he becomes captain and wins the World Cup after 28 years on Indian soil.
The narrative is clouded by the Bollywood-style romance of Dhoni (two of them), and the take-away from the scenes is that if you want Dhoni to be interested in you, make sure you tell him you don't know him. 
Pandey must have deliberately down-played the film's narrative, stripping it out of all drama and controversies. The film thus runs on an even keel that does nothing to inspire or move you. 
So it is that Bollywood has made an unexciting film about an exciting cricketer's life as if in a documentary. We only needed the voice-over. 
The triumph comes from Sushant Singh Rajput who plays Dhoni. He does a master-stroke here - sinking into the character's reticent personality and yet giving it some charm. 
At best MS Dhoni: The Untold Story is a film that simply chronicles the life of one of India's all-time best cricketers. Only, audiences get stumped with tiring repetitiveness, much like a one-day where the batsman refuses to strike. 
A bunch of kids had trooped in to watch the movie perhaps expecting some inspired cricketing. A few of them were even dressed in white. Last seen, they were yawning. 

 MS Dhoni: The Untold Story
Directed by Neeraj Pandey
Starring: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anupam Kher
Now playing at theatres in the UAE
Rating: 2/5

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