Director: Neeraj PandeyCast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anupam Kher, Kiara Advani, Disha Patani, Rajesh Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Neeta Mohindra, Bhumika ChawlaRating: (2.5/5)MS Dhoni: The Untold Story aims for an immediate high as it revisits the memorable night of the 2011 World Cup Final in Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. The audience chants India! India! India! and then it is instantaneously replaced by another five-letter word in Dhoni, who, as the captain of the Indian cricket team, takes to the pitch to chase the target set by Sri Lanka. Thereafter the film turns back in time, precisely 30 years to the day Dhoni was born and then unfolds, occasionally sluggishly, the bouncers-laden journey to the top of one of India’s most beloved sportsmen. The film works best when it showcases that talent alone is never enough, one needs to toil, persevere and take risks. Trouble is that once Dhoni achieves his dream which is to play for India, the film totters to the finish line struggling to hit the high note it began with, and the interest it maintained in the first 90 minutes.MS DHONI THE UNTOLD STORY REVIEW: Making Dhoni great again ALSO READ: Why Bollywood needs Sushant Singh Rajput That it isn’t to say that this is a poorly constructed biopic of a sporting hero, one who in fact continues to play. Given that the film is co-produced by Arun Pandey, who founded Rhiti Sports, the agency which in turn represents Dhoni, the film could easily have been a straight up hagiography. But Neeraj Pandey just about manages to present the failures, frustrations and (hardly any) flaws of his film’s eponymous hero. Dhoni has more memorable moments than Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag combined and that’s largely because the film shines a light on the supporting players who played an instrumental role in the making of Dhoni. advertisementThere is his school coach Banerjee (Rajesh Sharma), who spots him and encourages him to ditch goalkeeping and take up wicket-keeping instead. Kumud Mishra is a powerful official at Central Coalfield Ltd who encourages Dhoni in his teenage years by offering him a stipend. Friends in Ranchi in Pratam, owner of a sporting goods shop, and Santosh, from whom Dhoni learned the famous helicopter shot, are always watching out for him. An Indian railways officer AJ Shukla (Kali Prasad Mukherjee) and a roommate at the Railway headquarters in Kharagpur also come to his aid as Dhoni struggles to shuttle between being a ticket collector and a cricketer at the regional level. And finally there are the supportive women, his mother (Neeta Mohindra) and sister (Bhumika Chawla), and Paan Singh Dhoni, the reluctantly supportive father (Anupam Kher) who doesn’t want his son to end up being a pump operator like him.Through Paan Singh what the film does particularly well is highlight why the middle class Indian patriarch is still wary of sports as a profession even if it is as popular as cricket. So much so that young Dhoni gets his chance because the school’s first choice wicket keeper is forced to leave the team by his father. After all studies should be priority as it promises a job. By creating a realistic middle class milieu, best seen in Dhoni’s tiny, crammed house and later in the railway quarters he resides in Kharagpur, the film is able to draw you further into Dhoni’s fraught journey from state sensation to international cricket icon.The film covers key moments in Dhoni’s career but the focus here is solely on Dhoni the big hitter than Dhoni the wicket keeper or the composed captain. So the highlights footage is largely Rajput flinging his bat than doing wonders behind the stumps. Watching the film’s second half can at times feel like watching the tail order bat to avoid defeat in a test match. That’s because once Dhoni has made the national team Pandey along with his writer Dilip Jha are unable to present as compelling a portrait as they did earlier on. Instead of focusing on Dhoni’s ascent to India’s captain and his rapport with players, viewers are made to sit through Dhoni’s romantic life which has its share of contrived moments. The love portions start out well but then quickly fizzle, adding little substance to the narrative other than telling us, Hey, Dhoni was perhaps commitment phobic? Sorely missed are moments like the showdown with Yuvraj Singh at the regional level seen earlier on. There is little on how Dhoni reacted to failures and attacks to his house. It almost seems that Dhoni didn’t want the untold locker room and boardroom nuggets to make it into the film. advertisementNeeraj Pandey’s fourth film is his biggest yet but it is not his finest work. That honour still goes to his second feature, Special 26. But with a physically committed and emotionally measured performance by Sushant Singh Rajput and enough untold and lighter moments, MS Dhoni manages to give us a glimpse into the cricketer albeit only till 2011. MS Dhoni The Untold Story may not bowl you over, but it is an inspiring tale which reminds you that the road to success is mostly prolonged like a test match and not as entertaining as a Twenty20 tie.