If the game of cricket is a religion in India, its ardent devotees can recount how India’s captain cool had wielded his willow to play that unforgettable Helicopter Shot to clinch the much needed victory in the World Cup Finals. Sushant Singh Rajput who plays Dhoni, replicates the moment and the mannerisms (of the man around whom the movie revolves) to make you believe that he is, in fact, Dhoni! ALSO READ: MS Dhoni The Untold Story movie review: Sushant Singh Rajput starrer gets a thumbs up from critics!

Kudos to director Neeraj Pandey, who in the past, has given cinematic treats in the form of A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby. Pandey braved the risk of crafting a biopic on the legendary cricketer who is still active in the field. Pandey is walking on a tightrope here with MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, perhaps because the key question is what has remained untold about the man who has consumed tonnes of news print and hours of television with both his persona and personality? Pandey tells the story of an underdog in an interesting manner! Interestingly and matter-of-factly this hero has not gone unsung. In fact, he is one of the most revered and most celebrated sportspersons in the country. And yet Pandey chooses to unspools some of the most unknown facets of Mahi. ALSO READ: MS Dhoni – The Untold Story: Sushant Singh Rajput reveals how he wished to become a cricketer

The story is about the man whose first love was not cricket but football. Now this explains why he rose to power as one of the most reliable men behind the wickets. He pouches the ball going behind the furniture (read: stumps) with as much diligence as the integrity with which he saves the goals when he is  functioning as a footballer. The budding talent gets spotted at the School level. Pandey tells the story of not just a man whose rise to the top of the cricketing ladder is phenomenal, but also of an individual who is known for his temperament and his astute tactics as the coolest captain ever. As the situation gets tough, the hard nut gets tougher. But Dhoni is not your regular bloke. The tougher the situation the cooler he gets. He doesn’t sparkle sporadically. He spectacular all the time even when is not winning. Blame it on his unflinching focus and dogged determination–Dhoni wins hearts no matter what the outcome on the field is!

How did he nurture the traits that made him the man he has become? The narrative reflects upon the sweat and blood that has gone into making. The boy from a typical middle class household is under tremendous pressure. He doesn’t want to breathe in a familiar or a comfort zone. He doesn’t want to race ahead of his contemporaries. He simply wants to fly for he has the courage and the conviction in the might of his wings. He faces corrupt cricket bureaucracy early on and those bitter experiences act as a precursor for Mahi to become a shrewd sportsperson, a fine stagiest and an individual who seems absolutely unstoppable!

On the lop side though the first half of the movie languishes as the director focuses much on exploiting Dhoni’s background and what shaped his sensibilities. His relationships, his hardships and his romantic side consume much screen space. In the second half though the movie gains pace and momentum as the story quickly moves from highlighting the roots that consolidated Dhoni’s position as a level headed chap with grit to his victorious moments. These are the very moments that are etched in our collective memories and Pandey pushes the right triggers to evoke national pride.

Apart from the filmmaker, Sushant Singh Rajput deserves applause for acing the body language of Mahi. He sinks deep into the character and barely resorts to employing props (and sappy sentimentality) to make his portrayal of Dhoni totally believable!

Rating: 3.5 stars