Movies based on children have always worked in Tamil Cinema. Yaar Payyan, Kuzhandhaium Deivamum, Shanthi Nilayam (inspired by Sound of Music), Anbulla Rajinikanth, My Dear Kuttichattan, Anjali and Pasanga recently have been massive crowd pullers. Some have used children movies to talk about sensitive issues like Achamundu Achamundu (Child Abuse), Mazhalai Pattalam, Kannathil Muthamittal, En Bommukutti Ammavuku,Kannadi Pookal (sibling rivalry, unnoticed brilliance), Nandalala (inspired by Kikujiro), Malli, Nila Kaalam, Kutty (Not the Dhanush movie!!! – that even won a Jury award in Cairo Film festival). Movies on Children are always popular, heart warming and extremely feel good. But when you are taking a sensitive issue to discuss in the movie, you will be running on the thin rope that may twist you in to the web of preachy documentary. Taare Zameen Par of Aamir Khan is the best example of a balancing act. Prakash Raj’s Dhoni is way out of balance.
Dhoni (or Dhoni – Not Out) directed and produced by Prakash Raj takes heavy inspiration from Mahesh Manjrekar’s Marathi movie Shikshanaya Aaiche Go, is a story of a middle class father and his cricket crazy son. Thanks to Prakash Raj for giving original story credit to Mahesh, otherwise this review would have been another Deiva Thirumagal rant.
Karthik (Akash Puri) is a 9th standard student who is crazy about cricket and wants to become a wicket-keeper batsman like his idol Dhoni. Subramaniam (Prakash Raj), his single dad, works as a clerk in Registrar Office and tries to make both ends meet every month by money lending and pickle business. Like every doting middle class father, he believes the only thing he can give his children is education and pressurises his son Karthik to study well. His daughter Kaveri (wonderfuly portrayed by Srijeta) understands her Father’s plight and she tries to be the bridge between her brother and dad. Due to the pressure from School on 100% results in public exams, Subbu stops Karthik from playing cricket against his wishes and coach’s (Nasser) insistence. In a heated argument, Subbu beats up Karthik and he loses conscience as he hits a wooden table. While karthik stays in coma, Subbu understands his son and how the system is flawed against the talented children. How he tries to fight the system and saves his son is said in a languid preachy tone.
Kudos to the premise taken by Dhoni and every middle class parent would relate to the situation of Subbu. The strong questions the movie asks are imperative to the current education rat race and Dhoni could have created a debate like what Taare Zameen Par or 3 Idiots did. Dhoni fails miserably in sustaining interest in the matter. The repetitive dialogues of protagonists, stereotypical melodramatic sequences and overemphasis on 17 tables – I meant the overemphasis on such scenes (I dunno which 9th standard student reads 17 Tables) gets you bored. Even the strong characterisation of Radhika Apte (How beautiful she is!!) seems very stereotypical in this mayhem. When you have such a strong musical genius to back up, why Prakash you can’t think about subtle scenes to portray the sadness instead of never ending dialogues. The final dramatic sequences looks forced and doesn’t gel with the movie, especially the Neeya Naana part.
It doesn’t mean that Dhoni doesn’t have any positives. The simple and restrained acting of Radhika Apte, Gnanavel’s brilliant dialgoues in few moments (“Kanjikke vazhi illa Ranji ada poranam”) and impressive tiny little characters. Prakashraj has scored brilliantly on casting except for Akash Puri. I felt Karthik’s character needed to be little more emotive and at least know the basics of cricket (!!). Prakash Raj got one more thing right, the situations for song sequences and Ilayaraaja has had some wonderful time doing music for this movie. The power of silence in his music shows up brilliantly in apt places. Na.Muthukumar’s words makes you think, laugh and cry. The situation, camerawork, music, rendering and words are in perfect sync for the “Vilayatta padogotti” song
Dhoni, overall lacks the subtelty and focus that other above mentioned children movies had. Prakash Raj could have made an inspiring debut but his overdoing of the script leaves us lot to desire. Expecting more from you Prakash.
A 2/5 for the wonderful thought and few performances
P.S: I am adding the Dhoni Audio Launch video instead of the usual song or tralier. I feel everyone should see this program.