The film begins with an aerial shot of the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, the venue of the World Cup 2011 Final. India is batting, chasing Sri Lanka’s score for a World Cup win, and Dhoni is watching the proceedings from the dressing room. There’s a mention of spinners coming on to bowl, and that’s when Dhoni informs Gary Kirsten that he will go in at the fall of next wicket, instead of Yuvraj. A wicket falls, and Sushant Singh Rajput walks out as Dhoni with his trademark swagger, setting up the mood of the audience.

The movie goes back to the 1990s, and a young Dhoni is practising goal-keeping for his school team. From this point, majority of the film shows us how a proper biopic should be made. An ambitious child, a concerned father, supportive mother and sister – everything feels very authentic. Stained walls, old doors, small rooms, family struggling to make ends meet – nothing seems out-of-place, and that is testimony to the brilliance of the director. Neeraj Pandey’s expertise helps a lot here, not to forget the contribution of the cast.

Cast

Sushant Singh literally lives as Dhoni on-screen. Ever since a video of him practising in nets came out, it was clear how much the actor had worked hard for the movie. His batting stance, his walk, the way of talking and playing style – everything was as close to Dhoni as possible. This is surely the highest point of his acting career. Having a cricketing background has helped a lot too.

Anupam Kher is great as a caring middle class father. Working as a pump operator in his colony, he wants his son to be a government employee. The clichéd all-opposing father is not on display here, and that is another great thing about the movie. The director hasn’t over dramatised any part of the story, and the focus is on Dhoni and Dhoni only. Rajesh Sharma as Dhoni’s coach has given a good performance as well. Bhoomika Chawla doesn’t have too much screen time, just like the two leading ladies – Disha Patani and Kiara Advani. They have done their part well, though. Herry Tangri as a young Yuvraj looks strikingly similar to the cricketer.

Narration

The first half is all about Dhoni’s struggles, and all the events and incidents are spaced out well. Hence the 90-odd minute long first half doesn’t bore the audience. Humour is also present, though it is not overwhelming at any place. But the second half seemed a bit stretched. And even with so much time at their disposal, they didn’t manage to fit in all the details of his international career.

A few issues are shown in a non-provoking way. The names of the players Dhoni wanted to drop are muted out, thus ensuring that the movie is just about Dhoni’s personal life and not the controversies. The rushed up way of narrating the events in his international career is forgivable, but the way his first days are shown in detail raised hopes of a better second half. That’s not to say that the second half was bad. It serves the purpose of showing us his personal life, but it wasn’t as interesting as the first half.

Others

Songs are good and doesn’t disturb the flow too much. BGM is very good and at times thrilling. Technical aspects of the film are great too. Real footage from matches are used, and this ensures that the match situations doesn’t look fake. Using Sushant’s face on top of Dhoni’s worked out well. Kudos to the director for taking the pain to make sure everything looked as authentic as possible. There are a few factual mistakes too, like the blue compartments instead of brown ones of that time. But mistakes like these are too few to notice.

Almost all the matches shown are famous ones, and we all know what the result was. Still the way of narration gives us goosebumps every time something happens. Even the local matches gave us goosebumps. No matter how many times one has watched the last six in 2011 World Cup Final, the loud cheer when Dhoni lofts the ball over long-on still thrills an Indian. Thrilling moments like these made me title the review as ‘Goosebumps Galore!’

Conclusion

MS Dhoni The Untold Story is one of the best when it comes to biopic based on sports. There are a few flaws and the second half is a bit stretched, but these are negligible. Watch it for the good direction, Sushant’s performance and the goosebumps it gives.

Rating: ***

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