A film was recently released about M.S. Dhoni. The film is referred to as a ‘biopic.’
Knowing the true meaning of the word ‘biopic’ is interesting, because a biographical film is meant to be an account of someone’s life. It should aim to be factually correct and largely accurate. Because, if it is not, or it leaves out important details, then perhaps it is better referred to as fiction.
Given that the maker of M.S. Dhoni -- The Untold Story took over three hours and 10 minutes to enlighten us, a reasonable man would likely expect that all key details were aptly explored.
A so-called biopic on the remarkable wicketkeeper-batsman may be entertaining and a super-hit at the box office but is not the full and true story
But this is Dhoni, and this is India, and when someone like Mohammad Azharuddin can have a movie made about him that attempts to purport him as Mother Theresa, then what hope have we truly got?
For those that paid the 330 Indian rupees to see M.S. Dhoni’s life story instead got a Harry Potter movie. Full of make-believe and magic potions and the hiding of adult concepts from the audience in case they couldn’t handle the truth.
I just wish that the movie was named correctly: ‘M.S. Dhoni -- My Chance to Rewrite History. Please Just Watch it and Pretend There is Nothing Left to Tell.’
Sure, there are probably those out there who have a passing interest in Dhoni’s early life. But when you wake up from your romantic daydream, remind yourself that the Dhoni you know is the Dhoni that played cricket. This is the Dhoni you want the hidden story behind. This is the Dhoni you care about. No one seriously cares about his formative years. Those chapters are just filler for the early chapters in his forthcoming book.
So where was the in-depth and cutting story-telling of Dhoni’s cricket playing years?
I’m not talking about his glove work or his batting. I mean his horrible Test captaincy, save for that out of character, risk-taking effort at Lord’s that deserves all the plaudits it receives? The record shows he captained 30 Test matches at home and 30 away. At home he won an astonishing 21 and only lost three. Away, he won only six and lost a ridiculously bad 15.
Where’s the discussion about his hold over the Indian selectors, or that if he didn’t get his way with bowling line-ups, he just wouldn’t bowl the player?
Where is the bit where he insisted that Stuart Binny got to play?
Why no discussion about his horrible relationship with the media? The one where he bullied journalists to such a degree that multiple match-day reporters have admitted to me of being scared to ask topical questions about rogue elements in cricket that may have involved him. The one where the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) in India vetted questions. The one where he walked out of a press conference in New Zealand when someone dared ask him fairly about match-fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Where’s the tangled up conflict-of-interest section about his ties to former BCCI and IPL head N. Srinivasan and Dhoni’s role as vice president of India Cements, which Srinivasan owned? Srinivisan was a man that the Supreme Court of India described as “nauseating”, a man to whom Dhoni was intrinsically linked.
Surely, the biopic deserved to tell the tale of that sealed envelope penned by Justice Mudgal? Are we to believe that this hasn’t been a major stress in Dhoni’s life?
Where’s the Chennai Super Kings drama? Kicked out of the IPL for cheating and corruption, this was a team that Dhoni lead to countless fair play awards. A fact that still amuses me.
There are at least 10 questions that this biopic should have asked. Because without addressing these, a biopic this is not. Better to call it just another Dhoni misdirection at best. A lie at worst.
Think about how outrageously brilliant this Dhoni fairytale would have been if the following questions had been addressed:
1) There are allegations, true or false, that you have been involved in match fixing. Why do you feel you shouldn’t have stood down while these allegations were investigated? And when I say investigated, I don’t mean how the BCCI created a committee headed by Ravi Shastri to look into the issues, in which Shastri amazingly discovered nothing to embarrass his employer. (Justice Mudgal thought otherwise.)
2) Why did you feel your right to keep playing overrides the potential damage to the game’s credibility you caused by continuing to play?
3) You played in an IPL game for the Chennai Super Kings versus the Rajasthan Royals that the Mudgal Report has flagged as potentially fixed. Was it fixed?
4) Do you have relationships with any bookmakers or underworld figures? Did Gurunath Meiyappan introduce you to any?
5) Have you ever been paid in cash or in kind for information regarding a match you played in?
6) What did your role as vice president at India Cements entail? What requisite skills do you have to hold that role? What was the hardest question the Board of India Cements asked you in the interview? (I assume there was an interview?)
7) How would you define “conflict of interest”?
8) Do you accept that your ownership of a player management agency that manages some Indian players is a conflict of interest? If it is not, please define exactly what we should call it?
9) Did Srinivasan ever ask you to lie about Meiyappan’s role at Chennai Super Kings?
10) How many times have you reported approaches by bookies to the authorities, or any activity that would violate cricket’s codes of behaviour on gambling and match fixing?
I have many more questions that the biopic should have spoken to, but there is only so much you can fit into a three-hour movie. I’m usually on to my second helping of popcorn by that stage. I wouldn’t have room for a third.
What is fun to consider is how a biopic about Misbah would play out — it would probably be boring given that he is unlikely to want to rewrite any of his history.
There is no doubting that M.S. Dhoni is one of the greatest wicketkeeper-batsmen to have played white ball cricket. But the story of his life would be worth watching only if he was brave enough to tell it as it was. Instead, we have a propaganda film that attempts to entice us to remember him as his ego would like.
Now, that’s not really a biopic, is it?
Dennis Freedman is a cricket writer and host of Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw Cricket Show heard on Australian radio and globally via iTunes. Find him at DennisDoesCricket.com or @DennisCricket_
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 9th, 2016