The whole process was hard but I learnt to play like Dhoni: Sushant
In a country where cricket is a religion, M S Dhoni is looked upon as a God. And now director Neeraj Pandey is immortalizing him on the silver screen with his movie M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story. Playing the iconic cricketer is actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who has marked his presence in Bollywood with movies like Kai Po Che and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!
From meeting everyone related to Dhoni’s life to learning his signature moves on the field, Sushant has done it all to ace this role. In a candid conversation with Pandolin, the actor opens up about the movie, from his process of understanding the character to interactions with Dhoni, Sushant has much to share.
How was your interaction with M S Dhoni like? How did you understand his character?
Our meetings took place over a period of one year and each meeting was short. We met around thrice and the first time (that I met him) was when I was just starting preparation. Fortunately, he was free between two series and during this meeting I just heard his story, from his point of view.
A couple of months into the preparation, I met him again for a few days and there I asked him questions, which he answered patiently, honestly and genuinely. For this meeting, I had come up with almost 250 hypothetical multiple choice questions. He was not allowed to think through, just go with his basic instinct, to help me understand him better.
The third time we met was just before we were starting the film. There I asked him questions related to the script. Though there are things that we already know about him, I wanted to know his exact thoughts at a particular time.
Your training in cricket for this movie is said to be extensive and grueling. Tell us about it. How long did it take you to master the helicopter shot?
We had a team; Kiran More who is an ex-wicketkeeper was also a part of this team. He was also very close to Dhoni and knew him inside out. So he was coaching us and he structured the entire thing in a superb manner. The first couple of months were not on about becoming M S Dhoni; those months were dedicated to playing like a professional cricketer. When someone looks at you, they should think that you are a professional cricketer from the way you play or by the sound of the shot. Those are basic things that one learns through a lot of practice. I remember the first day that I was wicket-keeping. Within 10 minutes I got cramps and therefore, the initial months were about working on the nuances of being a cricketer.
Then we moved on to the second stage where we had a team of analysts and physios. Here it was all about learning to be Dhoni. Every shot that he was known for, like the helicopter shot, would be given to me in several different frames and in a sequence. All angles and every detail about the shot was explained to me.
Once that was done, Kiran More would set the bowling machine at one definite spot and I would play the same shot for three or four days and each day I would play it arond 200 times. This was done till a point that I could do Dhoni’s signature shots without thinking. When I was shooting for the film I wasn’t thinking about it, the shot came naturally to me. Though the whole process was long and hard, I learnt to play like Dhoni.
The first couple of months were not on about becoming M S Dhoni; those months were dedicated to playing like a professional cricketer
Were there any points of similarities between Dhoni and you, something that you could relate to?
Maybe a quality and a half! One thing is that I don’t take myself seriously; I take my work seriously. This point is similar between the two of us. The half quality is that I never think about the past, so I have loved all my failures and successes and take full responsibility for them. But I used to fool myself in believing that I could prove myself in the future. So a part of me would live in the future, but Dhoni is not like that. He is completely in the present and that is one quality that I really liked about him.
Dhoni is completely in the present and that is one quality that I really liked about him
Do you think that this was the right time to make a biopic on M. S. Dhoni, since he still has a long way to go?
The director doesn’t claim that there won’t be interesting stories to be said post the biopic. The only thing is that from the time that Dhoni commenced his career till now, there is something substantial to say, and you say it via this film. But there could be different stories that can be made on one person because there are different things that you would want to punctuate. For instance, I could make a film on a district level cricketer or I could take another aspect of his life to be the focal point of the movie. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if Dhoni is still playing, and I hope that there are great things in store for him in the future, but we are telling a different story.
What can viewers expect from this untold story about Dhoni?
We know everything that has happened in M. S. Dhoni’s life or you can just Google and you’ll get the information. So you don’t have to pay to watch the movie. But I am one of his biggest fans and I have been following him since 2004. Therefore, I know him like any other fan would, but I could never understand why he is the way he is, and that is the untold story. The movie dwells into how Dhoni deals with success and failure in his life.
I know him like any other fan would, but I could never understand why he is the way he is, and that is the untold story