The Awesome Supporting Cast Behind Captain Cool
Neeraj Pandey proves that he is a Dhoni fanboy. The movie starts out awesomely well, telling us details about Mahi’s early life we eagerly lap up. But we want to know about his growth from getting selected in the team to becoming a captain. We get Bollywood style romance instead and then we begin to look at the time: 190 minutes. Cricket wins, but the supporting cast steals the show.
Let’s get one thing clear: we’re cricket crazy. And the kids in the audience (who bunked school) and college lads (who skipped classes) were all there to watch anything and everything about Dhoni. We don't care who plays Dhoni, as long as we get to watch cricket. And poor Sushant Singh Rajput. He means well, but his arms are never going to be as sexy as those on Mahiman. And his back (when he strips to wear his #7 shirt does not look anything like what the girls would imagine makes great helicopter shots.
But the excitement stays with you for the whole first half of the film. The little boy Mahi who wants to play instead of studying earns a lot of laughter and shared emotion in the theater. Every frustrated sports person who has parents who believe that a good job is everything nodded their head in the movie. Anupam Kher rightly says, ‘Everyone cannot be Sachin Tendulkar!’. But for every father like Anupam Kher, there is a Coach (played brilliantly by Rajesh Sharma), a mentor - the head of Railways (Mr. Ganguly), his friends (each one has acted better than the main cast), his mother (uncredited on the film’s wiki page), his railway homies, heck even his girlfriend’s roommate Ritu.
It’s actually for the supporting cast that you should go watch this film. How else would you know how this star was made?
The first half just sails past you like a catch you have missed in the field. Then the movie begins to stump you. However does he become captain? The movie will not tell you. How does lad from Ranchi become Captain Cool? Where is Sapna Bhavnani who gave him freaky hair? How did he become such a motorbike fan? The movies does not tell you. Were there machinations involved in team selection? The movie does not tell you. Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni have crossed paths as kids, do they become friends as they both become teammates? This movie does not tell you.
The movie goes full frontal Bollywood with his first girlfriend whose story seems straight out of afternoon soaps. Each time she says (and she says this so many times), ‘We do have lots of time together, don’t we?’, you know that horrible things will happen. Each time Bollywood shows anyone driving with a vapid smile on their face thinking happy thoughts, you know they’re heading towards a disaster. And here’s where you want to ask Neeraj Pandey, ‘Who needs to fiddle with the steering wheel so much while driving straight ahead?’
Anyway! This fanboy tale drags on through several, no more than several terribly morphed shots of Dhoni into Sushant at different matches. But the film won’t tell you how Dhoni learnt to be the master strategist of the game? Did he sit down to watch his opponents play with someone? Did the team party together? Did they hate each other?
Azhar the movie failed because they whitewashed all his misdeeds and portrayed him as 'good'. This one comes very close to sugarcoating everything about Dhoni as well. You know BCCI is not exactly untainted. You know careers were made and broken when he became captain. You want to know this and you are shown more Bollywood. He meets the girl who he is to marry in the same fashion he met the girl before. Now that’s so Bollywood, you forget to laugh along with the hero worshipping roommate Ritu. What a lovely little cameo.
And songs! Who needs pointless songs? Why can't they just make a sports movie? But you know they're going to take you through the final world cup win, which makes the bad morphing (sometimes you know that is Dhoni and not Sushant Singh Rajput) tolerable. But how did Yuvi take the change of batting order? The film does not tell you. It needs to get back to cricket.
And cricket fans just love watching the world cup win again and again. The theater erupts in wild clapping when the real Dhoni is shown at last. And you realise that had this film been a documentary of Dhoni’s achievements, it would be a full house. But then you would not have seen so many lovely uncredited characters (the film PR has done them injustice!). You come back home 190 minutes later wishing there was someone like Coach’s wife (marvelous bargainer of fish!) at home who understood the game and made you chai.
Take a bow all you awesome actors: Rajesh Sharma the school coach, his bargaining-brilliantly-for-fish wife, Dhoni's mum, Dhoni's best friends, local cricket commentators, the BAS bat maker, Bihar selector who is in a meeting and forgets that Dhoni might not have money to reach Kolkata, Mr Ganguly of the Railways, all ticket collector friends Dhoni shares his 'quarters' with, young lad who plays Dhoni at school, the young man who plays Yuvraj Singh, the Pakistani shopkeeper who is a cricket fan, and even Sakshi's dizzy over Dhoni roommate Ritu. Without you people, the movie would have been just plain awful.