The movie is about the making of MS and his journey – Neeraj Pandey
Neeraj Pandey feels that good stories have a way of getting to him. The filmmaker believes that he is at his best when in sync with his intuition. And thus he has followed his gut and is entirely satisfied with the casting of Sushant Singh Rajput as ‘Mahi’ in his upcoming film M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story.
In a conversation with Pandolin, Neeraj talks about the making of the much – awaited biopic and what entertainment means to him, among other things.
How did the idea of a biopic on Dhoni come to your mind?
It was not an idea that came to me. It was actually an offer that came from Inspired Entertainment. Stories find me and happen to me in a strange way.
With movies like Sarabjit, Azhar and now M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, would you say that the audience is more interested in ‘Real’ cinema?
We underestimate our audience. My personal opinion is that if we can give them value for the time and money then they are good. And I think that the ‘real’ is also a lie at the end of the day.
We underestimate our audience
You have had several meetings with Dhoni to observe him and plan the character better. What aspects did you focus on?
I focused on ‘What made him the man that he is today‘. I wasn’t that interested in his life after his stellar rise as that went outside the purview of the movie. The movie is about the making of MS and the journey that he had. The choices that he made and the options he discounted.
How hard was it to find a face who can portray MS the best? What made Sushant Singh Rajput ideal?
It was not hard at all. I function a lot on my intuition. Sushant and I had a 20 odd minute meet. There was a good feeling and we were good to go.
I function a lot on my intuition
The supporting cast is also such that they bear resemblance to the people around Dhoni. How important was it to get these actors right?
We never took resemblance into count. Since MS is such a popular face, we felt that there was no need to take that route. We felt that we should just focus on getting the right cast. The casting director Vicky (Sidana) did a fabulous job of putting together this fantastic ensemble.
As a director, what prep process do you follow for your actors? What kind of sessions were designed for the cast of Dhoni?
We had a lot of reading sessions. Sushant and Zeeshan, who plays the younger version of MS, trained rigorously to get their cricket bit right. With the others I did readings. It was amazing that almost all of them were nailing it right from the word go. That credit goes to the actors.
Sushant and Zeeshan, who plays the younger version of MS, trained rigorously to get their cricket bit right
What were the biggest hurdles you faced while making this movie?
Post and VFX. There is never enough time. We also need to learn and understand that aspect of filmmaking. One bad shot and it’s an undo for an entire sequence. The actual shoot is easy if you have the right crew, the right team. I was fortunate enough to have the best possible core team and crew. Shital Bhatia, Sudheer Palsane, Sunil Babu, Falguni Thakore, Debashish Mishra, Shree Narayan and others led this huge crew ably.
How important is the element of entertainment in a real story like this?
It depends on how you define or interpret entertainment. It’s not to be confused with comedy. For me it’s about how you can keep your audience engaged for the duration of your film. The genre takes a backseat. The story takes the front. Also there is music. Amaal Malik and Manoj Muntashir have created some memorable numbers.
For me entertainment is about how you can keep your audience engaged for the duration of your film
Today’s cinema is rapidly changing. But are we going in the right direction?
I don’t think I am qualified enough to answer that one. But I can safely say these are very interesting times.
What is the best part about your job?
Travel. Without any doubt whatsoever.