Dhoni’s Mental Strength Separates Him From the Boys: Neeraj Pandey
Filmmaker Neeraj Pandey shares anecdotes about how ‘MS Dhoni-The Untold Story’ was made.
He clearly states that he is not a fan of MS Dhoni, which lets him be unbiased in making the biopic on this legend. When asked about what intrigues him about the man, he says, “His mental strength to absorb almost anything separates him from the boys.” He already has started his work on his next Naam Shabana with Taapse Pannu followed by Toilet and Crack which will commence in November and January respectively. The Quint meets filmmaker, Neeraj Pandey to discuss the man behind the untold story.
Q: You have made thrillers in the past, to move forward with a biopic must be a refreshing change. How did the idea of making one of the life of MS Dhoni fall into place?
Neeraj Pandey: I got the offer to make the MS Dhoni biopic from Arun Pandey while I was shooting for Baby. When he offered me the film, I was not sure if I would be taking up the offer. But later on, I met the man himself following which things took a U-turn. It was only after I met MS Dhoni and heard the story of his life that I decided to come on board as a director. When I came on board, Arun Pandey had already convinced Dhoni for a film to be made on his life. It might have been awkward for him because he is still at the peak of his career, having said that I never sensed any discomfort from his side.
Q: How challenging was it?
Neeraj: I speak for myself here, genres are not challenging, stories are. I am a writer as well, so that helps a lot. I can switch genres when I am writing. But it’s fun.
Q: Were you ever conflicted when it came to being objective about Dhoni, as he is loved all across? Are you also a fan?
Neeraj: I am not a fan of MS. I love cricket but I am not a fan of anyone. If I was a fan and then had approached this material, it would be terrible. You are already in love with him, it becomes the biggest disqualification to take up this subject. I am not biased towards him so that helps. It is a very conscious and a sensible choice to stay away from that aspect. In fact, MS knows that my favourite player is AB de Villiers.
Q: Since Dhoni is still playing and is extremely fit, do you think you have to be all the more responsible while making the biopic?
Neeraj: You have to be responsible anyway. You make any biopic, you have to take that onus on yourself. You have to make sure that your HOD’s do the hard work and get the details right. That is the cornerstone of any project.
The film doesn’t intend to hurt anyone. It is not made in that spirit. It is made in a very sportsman like spirit which means that we are not taking potshots at anyone and there is a logical explanation to everything that we are doing.
We have spoken about him and he has been magnanimous enough to speak about things that make him human. It would be very easy to now distance himself from a shortcoming and put him where you don’t see anything wrong in him. Our idea was not to put him on a pedestal because this is the making of Mahender Singh - the man that he ultimately became.
Q: What about Sushant? How did he fit the bill?
Sushant was always the first choice. He is from the same part of the country so getting the dialect right was easy for him, he is keen on the sport which is a positive as well and also his resemblance with Dhoni. With all of this, he is a good actor too.
Q: Your film with Taapsee Pannu, Naam Shabana looks very different. Could you tell us more about the project? Is it inspired by her character in Baby?
Neeraj: It is not a prequel or a sequel, it is a derivative. We will come out with a Baby 2, sometime in the near future. When we were shooting for Baby, this thought crossed my mind. Taapsee was so good at what she was doing, she trained so much that she was better than the stunt person on the day. By the time the cut of the film was ready, I was sure that I want to explore Taapsee’s character where we just show what happened to her.
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