Posts Tagged ‘ Kumud Mishra ’

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story

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M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story
Release date: September 30, 2016
Directed by: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anupam Kher, Bhumika Chawla, Rajesh Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Kiara Advani, Disha Patani

Growing up, I was quite the anti-establishment/contrarian kid. I opined that the world’s greatest batsman isn’t that. Triple H wasn’t boring in the early 2000s. Shah Rukh Khan isn’t the demigod that he is. One among a long list of such views was that Mahendra Singh Dhoni isn’t all that heroic. Especially, after assuming the captaincy of the Indian team. Sure, he was winning it all, but then he wouldn’t often put himself in the line of fire when the situations demanded. Rather, he would only promote himself up the batting order when things are safer; then came along April 2, 2011, the night of the World Cup Final, and all of my doubts were vanquished by him.

I grew up to realize that Tendulkar definitely is the greatest batsman, Triple H was indeed boring then, and Khan is a demigod. Dhoni played up the order, struck his helicopter shots and won us the cricket world cup, and along the way earned my prized lifelong fandom. M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story builds up to this lovely crescendo, thereby avoiding all mention of the few clouds of controversy that came to surround the franchise he plays for, and is “coincidentally” the vice-president of the team’s holding company, India Cements.

There isn’t much to his initial cricketing abilities, as he’s picked up for wicketkeeping due to his goalkeeping skills in the school’s football team. Post that, there isn’t much either, as he’s shown saying that he likes batting better, and one day, he wows the people around him with his genetically gifted (?) batting display. Without rhyme or reason, Dhoni (Sushant Singh Rajput) is soon, the best batsman that pre-Jharkhand Bihar has to offer. What’s missing in the technicalities, is made up for by in the way of shifting the focus to the people around him. Be it his hesitatingly supportive parents, the local sport merchandise seller’s belief in getting him sponsorship for a kit, or his friends who pool their savings and take turns to drive all night to help him reach a particular destination.

Dhoni finds supporters in his employers too, reminding one of an era gone by, where people actually cared for others’ aspirations, or even acting as just a gentle source of inspiration. The origins of the Captain Cool monicker attached to the man aren’t established, it’s just the way he is. Sushant Singh Rajput, though, pulls it off excellently, only as he can. His struggles are easy to empathize with, earnest in will, and purely inspiring. Much like Dhoni himself, the state and national hero.

The post intermission half depicts the ascension of the man, and changes in haircut and him filming endorsements at usual intervals. Then, the part of the “The Untold Story” comes in to play, where Priyanka (Disha Patni) comes across a fairly new, yet popular, to the scene MS Dhoni on a certain flight and asks him to get her an autograph from another player. He falls for the whole, “Oh, she doesn’t know me. This is so fresh.” profile, and then there is another romance in quick succession, when he again, to no one’s surprise, falls for another girl who doesn’t recognize him. Women come in only as romantic interests, and their relationships aren’t even different from each other. The other women besides them, Dhoni’s sister (Bhumika Chawla) and a coach’s wife exist only to serve tea, and act as cheer leaders respectively.

With only a single mention of the IPL, and the names of senior players muted in a team meeting, the film hardly scratches below the surface of the news reports that we may have come to read in the past. Some of the real Dhoni’s personal traits, like his wit, his curt replies to media queries, are very well reflected in the reel Dhoni. The film humanizes the most successful Indian cricket captain to a fair extent, when he introspects the state of his life and his railway job, disappointment at missing out a crucial flight, and the loss of a loved one. What the film fails to shed light on, and disappointingly, are his leadership qualities, his instinctive decisions that he has gone to make on the field, and even his dynamics with any of the other cricket team members.

Every time he is in the dressing room, or the hotel, he is always alone. It’s difficult to comprehend if it’s a deliberate attempt to show him as a lone wolf, or just plain cinematic liberties being exercised.

A heavily talented ensemble cast lends much credence to even small parts, right from a school coach, to his co-employees in the railways. Dhoni, the man, epitomizes a lower to middle class family’s character, a small town youth’s growth to a national hero, and a temperament that perfectly spells out a vanilla good boy, with an undying resolve; and these are the only parts Neeraj Pandey seems to concern himself with.

Hardly bold or risque, unlike M.S. Dhoni’s cricketing persona, the film is a good compilation of the greatest hits of the man’s life, until it comes undone towards the end of the second act of the film. Sushant Singh Rajput and the rest of the cast, rise above the decisions of the makers, quite similar to how Mahi, and his teams did, over the years, in spite of the political mess the cricket control boards found themselves in.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5)

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Airlift

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Airlift
Release date: January 22, 2015
Directed by: Raja Krishna Menon
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Inaamulhaq, Purab Kohli, Prakash Belawadi, Kumud Mishra

What the entire world and its cousin, i.e. Venus and/or Mars, seem to have forgotten in the annals of history, Raja Krishna Menon attempts to resuscitate after the recent rescue efforts by the Indian government to bring back Indians from the currently war-torn regions of Iraq and Syria. The ‘original’ airlift mission of 1990 is all but faded away, where not a single source on the internet credits Sunny Matthews and a certain Mr Vedi, a man whose first name is not in print anywhere. All the glory for the biggest rescue operation is handed out to the Indian government of that period, and its bureaucrats.

Menon creates a solitary character out of the multiple men that formed the core committee of the entire initiative in Kuwait and names him Ranjit Katiyal (Akshay Kumar), a self-centered businessman who prides himself in being a Kuwaiti and flinches even at Hindi music that his driver happens to play on a car ride just a day before the unexpected Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Then Iraq president, Saddam Hussein’s army of 16 year olds runs wild and sets fire, its guns and penis at everything that is Kuwaiti. People of Indian origin do get a leeway as Hussein considered them as friends.

After witnessing a relatively not-so-barbaric act of war, Katiyal panics and fears for the safety of his family. On his wife’s insistence, he decides to flee to London. He tries to crack a deal with Iraqi Major Khaled (Inaamulhaq) through which he can escape the country. Katiyal, on the way back home, stops over at his office, only to see all of his employees huddled together. He realizes that these people have nowhere to go, and a sudden sense of self-realization sets in him. He decides to use his power and money to guarantee the security of these Indian employees.

He goes to great lengths to keep them protected, but that wouldn’t be enough if they are to stay alive. He tries to establish communication with the apathetic ministry of external affairs back in India. Katiyal goes back and forth between being a messiah and a self-doubting fool of hope, thus offering Akshay Kumar to perform as well as he does. Nimrat Kaur as Amrita finds her feet slowly into the film, shining in moments where her husband is questioned, or questions himself. The soppy and unnecessary romantic track playing in the background looks great as Kaur flashes her smile at her character’s husband, thus displaying the individual strength that she brings to the table.

Prakash Belawadi’s character George Kutty is a small gem in itself. He’s the ever grumbling Malayali middle-aged man who feels entitled all the time and shows his displeasure with anything in an over-the-top fashion. We all know rambling ”uncles” like him, and none of us are quite fond of them. Inaamullhaq, with his Saddam Hussein impression, wears the Iraqi accent like his tailor-made war jacket. He’s charmingly slimy as the money-hungry mid-level army officer. Akshay Kumar feeds off the support characters and restrains his character and even lets his vulnerability flow out in tears. His character indulges in conversational humor, the kind which Kumar must have forgotten exists after years of slapstick tomfoolery.

Kumar ‘airlifts’ his acting career every year with one ‘good’ film and this time he lets the film overpower him. Where his peers are still vehemently coloring their beards and hair to appear younger, Kumar repeatedly lets his age show realistically; making you hope that he sticks to just this way of working and age gracefully by giving up on the silly franchise films he keeps acting in. But again, that’s his prerogative. Airlift has moments of thrill, often scaring you of the consequences. Menon and his cinematographer Priya Seth shoot special scenes just to show how potentially dangerous the young Iraqi soldiers can be, creating a sense of doom in the viewers’ minds every time they appear. The limited, but gruesome depiction of war crimes is the biggest achievement of the film, and in that they create a very strong antagonist.

The bureaucracy red-tape angle plays calmly in parallel where Kumud Mishra as Sanjiv Kohli keeps knocking on the door of his superiors to rescue the Indians in Kuwait. He fights his own small battle and provides for a good subplot within the film.

Airlift is a poignant tale of how a few Indians carried out one of the most successful mass-evacuation and serves as an important reminder of, as a line goes in the film, “Chot lagne par ma-ma hi chillaate hain“.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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