Indian ODI cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s biopic is running successfully in theatres and raking in the moolah. The critics and the audience showered praise on its lead actor Sushant Singh Rajput. They unanimously declared Rajput as the show stealer of the film.
While Sushant may deserve the praise, what about director Neeraj Pandey’s claims of this being an ‘untold’ story?
Pandey conveniently set his film before 2011 when India won the World Cup at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. Dhoni was the hero of that match with an unbeaten 91.
But we already knew this.
And, that’s precisely why we wanted the film to throw some light on Dhoni as a person.
We wanted to understand his ideas about the rotation policy, and his run-ins with senior players. What made VVS Laxman announce his retirement before the 2012 New Zealand Test at his hometown Hyderabad (Dhoni for his part clarified that “you need to ask Laxman about it”.) Or why Virender Sehwag left Dhoni out of the tribute to the captains he played under during last December’s felicitation. Or if Dhoni actually called Gautam Gambhir’s “attitude and on-field ethics” as “selfish, hurtful to the team”. That would have explained Gambhir’s recent tweet saying, “I don’t believe in biopics on cricketers.”
The film also leaves out the retelling of the 2009 World T-20 press conference, where Dhoni brought the entire team and read out a statement of unity.
Then there’s the stuff that was anyway expected to not make the cut, including the can of worms that was the 2013 IPL spot fixing scandal. But one of the darkest episodes on Indian cricket has been conveniently whitewashed in the film.
The film does not put forward Dhoni’s take on the episode that led to the Chennai Super Kings which he captained, being banned for two years. The scandal eventually prompted the Supreme Court to ask N Srinivasan to step aside as BCCI president. Murkier still, Gurunath Meiyappan -- CSK official, a “cricket enthusiast” and Srinivasan’s son-in-law -- was charged with illegal betting along with friend Vindu Dara Singh, who was filmed sitting in the VIP box with Sakshi Dhoni.
The film doesn’t explain captain Dhoni’s purchase (and eventual sale) of the 15% stake in the player management firm Rhiti Sports. Or why he was named the vice-president of Srinivasan’s India Cements. Rhiti Sports is a party to the production of MS Dhoni – The Untold Story too . In fact, its legal team features ahead of the supporting cast in the end credits.
Watch: Sushant Singh Rajput in a song from MS Dhoni - The Untold Story
The only revelation is the role of Disha Patani, who plays Priyanka in the film, and how Dhoni saw her reflection in his wife Sakshi. Even this wasn’t a hidden fact for his fans. This story had appeared in media.
In last five years, Dhoni hasn’t exactly remained the ‘cool’ guy he was once perceived as. His treatment of an Aussie journalist after the semi final of World T-20 2016 was seen as his attempt to block questions by cricket pundits.
No doubt, he is still one of the most loved cricketers India has ever seen, but things aren’t exactly the same as 2011 when he was on all-time high.
But is this the real Dhoni? Is the truth still untold? Or it is half told?
Dhoni’s famous helicopter shot enacted by Sushant in the film
Azhar, which wasn’t as well made as MS Dhoni – The Untold Story, had more of Azharuddin inside the dressing room than Dhoni in a film on him. Azhar talked about the controversies at least, in a lopsided way.
In Dhoni’s biopic, we witness a man who is clean, clear, focussed and a great achiever. He could be all that, but did he never meet ‘grey’ people? Not even once in different cricket associations?
He proudly says in the film, ‘I don’t want captaincy just for the sake of it. I won’t be a puppet.’ And he said this to the infamous cricket officials of BCCI, and still he didn’t face any internal restrictions. How?
This is that famous walk
Maybe all of them playing and managing cricket are extraordinarily good people and there is no conflict of interest. But then who are the people whose names keep cropping up in controversies? It can’t be media generated everytime!
Not taking names here, but some of his link-up rumours were on every news platform. What is shown was convenient to the director and his protagonist.
Pandey is a skillful director with a fantastic track record. His film is engaging till the time he shows Mahi’s childhood and growing up years. It’s entertaining even after that, but it’s not ‘untold’.
You may say this was expected because Arun Pandey, Dhoni’s close associate, looked after the finances for the film. In that case, it could be ‘constructed’. It’s about projecting Dhoni’s greatness in 190 minutes. And may we dare say here, MS Dhoni – The Untold Story is more of a well made PR film than the cricketer’s actual life story.
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