I was traveling overseas on vacation and the M.S. Dhoni movie starring Sushant Singh Rajput was one of the “international” choices on the plane movie entertainment system. So, I took a chance on it. I know nothing about cricket — only as much as you pick up watching Lagaan. I knew nothing about Dhoni either — only had heard his name.
The first half of the film with the story of Dhoni’s childhood and early days trying to work up to the big leagues I found very compelling. The two romances in the film were also very well done.
After I watched the movie, I read about how many months Sushant spent working with cricket coaches to perfect the signature Dhoni swing. I can’t speak to how well he embodied Dhoni since I haven’t ever watched the real man play, but he did a good job acting the part.
The second half of the film just fell apart for me. It was sixer after sixer in a highlight reel of games that didn’t mean anything to me. I suppose they were important. Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood shared with me that she saw this film in a theater crowded with Dhoni fans who anticipated every big moment, and even change of jersey colors. I was watching it alone on a plane, so I didn’t have that to give me any sense of dramatic tension.
I shouldn’t have to be an expert in cricket or the man Dhoni to feel dramatic tension and be swept up in his story. I’ve seen other films about sports I know nothing about that are some of my favorite films ever. Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the Formula One racer Senna is incredible. (Kapadia went on to win the Oscar for Amy.) I was on the edge of my seat practically the whole movie. I’m a fan of Michael Sheen so I watched The Damned United, about the short reign of a football coach for the Manchester United team. The conflict between Sheen’s character and the team, the management, and especially his best friend and partner is an incredibly dramatic story. Highly recommend both films, btw.
Dhoni participated in this film, doing several hours of interviews, and they used those real details to give the “untold” story. But that meant that they glossed over some other real events to stay in Dhoni’s good graces. He was a “consultant” or executive producer or something on the film. There were little moments that just slid by, that you could have based the entire dramatic arc of the second half on — like his insistence as captain of the India team to force out a few older players who weren’t “fit” to start rebuilding the team toward the World Cup years in the future. Just mentioned and then glossed over. There were a few moments like that. Instead we got more footage of sixer after sixer. I actually almost dozed off watching it.
Anupam Kher is of course great as Dhoni’s father. He’s always great. The music montage numbers were good. Those songs were in the charts for weeks. And I did like the romances.
I guess I give it 2 and a half stars for the good first half. If you’re a fan of cricket and Dhoni, this film may be for you. If not, give it a miss. It’s on Netflix streaming currently in the US.