Or Hagiography 101...
Tejas Nair | October 02, 2016
Director Neeraj Pandey has given us some good thrillers in the last few years, but this contrived biographical film about a cricketer raises the point that he should stick to thrillers.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Sushant Singh Rajput) is a young man who is from an economically poor background and lives with his family in Ranchi. After having picked up by his school’s cricket coach for wicket-keeping, Mahendra is exposed to the depths of cricket. When he realizes that he is good at it, Mahendra decides to take it up seriously, albeit at his father’s (Anupam Kher) disappointment who thinks people who choose sports as a career are losers. The narrative then takes up a coming-of-age setup and showcases Mahendra’s journey as he lands a job with Indian Railways and consequently plays for the national cricket team.
The film is essentially a combination of peacock sequences to entice a gullible fan. With more than three hours of running time, the stretches of sequences that outline Mahendra’s “journey of struggle” are hardly believable, because it feeds its audience with content that they want to see. There’s not a single uncomfortable moment in the film, and biopics are confirmed failures when they do not explore the entirety of the topic in question. The film bites off more than it can chew and tries to encapsulate the whole decades-long life of the cricketer, conveniently written to cover the topics already in the public domain. For instance, Mahendra’s unenthusiastic bout as a railway ticket collector is sampled at length, when there were more interesting periods that could have been covered. Further, since it’s also a Bollywood film, the romance quotient was high when the plot introduces Mahendra’s love interests, simultaneously trying to induce sentimentality somewhere along.
A perfect example of how biopics, and not documentaries, are made is how Danny Boyle pulled off Steve Jobs’ story in his 2015 Academy Award-nominated film. That film chronicled the man’s life story in a peculiar way and succeeded at it. Here, the blame is on director Pandey who chose to chronicle the whole story and stick with a formulaic approach where the final product looks like a lavish gourmet dish. As an informed viewer, one wants to see the negative and positive sides of a star in the making, and this film offers neither, not even partially. It’s only intention is to showcase a contrived and ridiculously manipulated life-story of a sportsman who is known only in a certain niche, as is also evident from the perspective of a notable character in the film.
Therefore, it is not a biography, but a hagiography created only to give a final adieu to the real-life personality’s fame which is inching towards its exhaustion. Additionally, one has all the evidence to prove that propaganda is at aggravated play here, because of the spotlight decipherment of the central character’s alleged wrong notes with a colleague. So, is this a plot to hit the ice? Maybe, but a very wicked medium for that.
Rajput manages to maneuver his character with ease, but his expressions seemed to come in between the play. His hard-work is, however, ubiquitous, and that must be lauded. Leading ladies do not have much to say or play, as they are used as puppets, Bollywood style. Anupam Kher is the only person in the whole film whose actions come out as natural. The use of formula is apparent in almost all filmmaking factors, except for the terrible CGI. And if I start listing all the commercial brands mentioned in the film, I could write an essay and stand last in a competition.
Finally, the film only uses the good points so as to etch a spot in the cinematic history of a man who is assumed to be a rock-star in his field. Sure, the international cricket matches are a testament to that, but if cinema is used as a platform to blatantly advertise the enemies of Andy Warhol, then I’m personally sorry that it is doomed. No wonder the film slyly tries to compare another cricketer with an imaginary being, for there’s a film about him coming up, too.
All said and done, the film is perfect for a cricket fanatic who puts his/her own life behind the game, only to revere the players. And, unless the people and the country decide to pay less attention to it and the dramatic madness attached, things WILL stay the same.
BOTTOM LINE: Neeraj Pandey’s “M S Dhoni: The Untold Story” neither explores the untold territory nor goes into detail about the unpleasant attributes of the personality’s life. It’s a controlled account of a man who hopes to vindicate himself, make himself part of cinematic history, and salvage his dwindling popularity – all at the cost of mocking himself.
Wait for the TV premiere.
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