Posts Tagged ‘ Neeraj Pandey ’

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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Special 26

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Special 26
Release date: February 8, 2013
Directed by: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Shergill, Rajesh Sharma, Kishore Kadam,  Kajal Aggarwal, Divya Dutta

A quartet of conmen who conduct heists while pretending to be government officers are the gutsy fantastic four of Neeraj Pandey’s reality inspired suspense-thriller. Though embellished with a few quite passable songs, the film runs for a long time without feeling slow and boring.

As each character is introduced at the start, Ajay (Akshay Kumar), P.K. Sharma (Anupam Kher), Iqbal (Kishore Kadam), Joginder (Rajesh Sharma) present themselves as no-nonsense CBI officials on a mission to raid a minister’s house. They’re accompanied by Inspector Ranvir Singh (Jimmy Shergill) and Shanti (Divya Dutta) with a small troop of constables. Soon the raids increase and the victims refuse to report these instances. Ranvir Singh & Shanti face the brunt and are suspended from duty.

Actual CBI officer Waseem Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) is a straight-faced man who doesn’t like her wife’s cleavage showing. Hey, that’s in the actual plot! He’s contacted by Singh after he starts his private investigation against the gang’s various outings across India. Soon, two teams are set up and the fight to the finish ensues. The fake CBI are now up for a ‘final’ raid with a mega scale and that’s where the Special 26 is established.

The plot isn’t too thrilling itself, but it depicts the finer traits in a subtle but detailed manner. For example, the scene where the group lands to loot a place that is already being raided by authentic officials. This shows the over-confidence and charming capabilities of Ajay, but at the same time shows that they go in unprepared to steal millions. The latter detail, probably undesired, shows pivotal flaws in the narrative.

The writing isn’t too great, with another basic flaw at the end, and without any fresh or impactful lines. But all of these shortcomings are compensated by the many individual characters and performances. Akshay Kumar’s character is the flashy one, and disappointingly we don’t get to see much from his acting side, though the rest have been given meatier roles. Kher, Shergill along with Sharma and Kadam are subtle and particularly suiting.

Whereas Kajal Aggarwal who plays Ajay’s love interest doesn’t have much to do. The same goes for Divya Dutta’s character, she’s almost reduced to a caricature. Bobby Singh’s cinematography is pleasing, yet mundane at certain moments. There are filler music videos which don’t serve much purpose except for providing a breather to the much relaxed narrative; thereby becoming pointless and not required.

All in all, the film isn’t too high on adrenaline nor filled with any jump-out-of-the-seat points but yet manages to remain pact and entertaining. Special 26 isn’t a classic, though it’s fairly good at what it aims to do and is entertaining.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5) 

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