M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language biographical sports drama film written and directed by Neeraj Pandey. It is based on the life of former Test, ODI and T20I captain of the Indian national cricket team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The film stars the late Sushant Singh Rajput as MS Dhoni, along with Disha Patani, Kiara Advani, and Anupam Kher. The film chronicles the life of Dhoni from a young age through a series of life events.

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNeeraj Pandey
Written byNeeraj Pandey
Dilip Jha
Produced byArun Pandey
Fox Star Studios
CinematographySudheer Palsane
Edited byShree Narayan Singh
Music byScore:
Sanjoy Chowdhury
Amaal Mallik
Rochak Kohli (1 song)
Distributed byFox Star Studios
Release date
  • 30 September 2016 (2016-09-30)
Running time
190 minutes[1]
Budgetest. 104 crore (US$13 million)[2]
Box officeest. 216 crore (US$27 million)[3]

The idea of the biopic was put forward by Dhoni's manager, Arun Pandey, after encountering an incident at an airport after the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final. Development began two years later, with the consent of Dhoni. Neeraj Pandey was later approached to helm the film while he was working on Baby. Pandey recruited a number of people for researching into Dhoni's background and his life events. Dhoni eventually became a consultant on the film.

The film was released on 30 September 2016 by Fox Star Studios and received the widest release ever for a Bollywood film across 61 countries. In addition to being released in Hindi language, it was also dubbed in Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi languages, although the Marathi release was later cancelled due to opposition. Upon release, the film became a critical and commercial success. It is the fifth highest-grossing Bollywood film of 2016 and sixth highest grossing Indian film of 2016 worldwide 215.48 crore (US$27 million).[4]


In the pre-credits sequence there is a scene of the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final. MS Dhoni, India's captain, walks out to bat after Virat Kohli's wicket.

The film begins in Ranchi, 7 July 1981. At the hospital maternity unit, Paan Singh Dhoni is confused whether he has got a girl or boy. He later names his baby boy Mahendra 'Mahi' Singh Dhoni. Paan Singh is a pump operator who waters the practice ground. Fourteen years later, Mahi is spotted by a cricket coach while goalkeeping in a football game. He invites him to try out for the school cricket team as a wicketkeeper and selects him after being impressed. Mahi improves his batting and becomes a regular member of the team.

Three years later, a grown up Mahi helps win an inter-school cricket match. After achieving much fame, Mahi is selected for the Ranji Trophy but his draft notice is held up due to which he is late in reaching Kolkata despite his friends' help. But Mahi does not give up and, to please his father, he joins the Kharagpur Station as a ticket collector. Years later, Mahi's sister Jayanti is married to his friend Gautam Gupta.

After some time, Mahi is depressed with his job. With the insistence of his manager, Mahi decides to play cricket alongside his work, and after his day-shifts he goes to practice cricket. He participates in different tournaments and as a result he gets selected for the Railways. After a good performance, he tries-out for the India national under-19 cricket team selections. Bihar loses to Punjab where Yuvraj Singh scores 301 and Mahi does not succeed though he is selected for the Duleep Trophy.

Mahi leaves his job and admits to his father that cricket is his only ambition and he wants to become a professional cricketer. He works hard and is selected in the national team and makes his debut. He meets and befriends Priyanka Jha, an office consultant, and scores a century after meeting her. She buys a watch for him as a Valentine's Day gift but dies in a truck accident on her way. Mahi again goes into depression and has bad form in the 2007 Cricket World Cup. As captain of the national side, he wins the T-20 World Cup, and leads India to the number one ranking in Test matches.

In 2010, Mahi arrives at a hotel. Sakshi Singh Rawat, a hotel official fails to recognize him and later apologizes to him. They soon start dating and Mahi eventually proposes marriage to her after she mentions buying him a Valentine's Day's gift which he refuses. They marry and Mahi begins training for the 2011 World Cup. He eventually develops the team with new players. The film returns to the final where Mahi eases the pressure with a crucial innings. With 4 runs required, Mahi hits a six and India wins the final. His family, friends and coaches watching the match cry happy tears.

After the credits, the real MS Dhoni walks by the boundaries.




Since 2003, Dhoni's life has been chronicled in the media. Nobody knows what happened to him before that; before he made it to the Indian cricket team. So, it was relatively easy to revisit that life. That's where the story for the film came from.

– Director Neeraj Pandey[10]

Development of a Dhoni biopic began after the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final and the discussion about the idea went on over the following years but remained dormant. Then, after a few years, Dhoni was at an airport when a child approached him and asked him a question on motivation. Dhoni sat down with the young boy and spent 5 minutes answering the question. His manager, Arun Pandey, asked why he spent that much time and Dhoni replied how his answer was pivotal in benefiting and motivating the boy. This incident then prompted Pandey to make a film about him saying [to Dhoni] that his story has the power to motivate millions of children like him.[11] After the idea coalesced, Pandey began to convince Dhoni himself in order to adapt his life into a full-length feature film.[11] When he was first approached on the idea of the adaptation, he became a little worried and questioned the need for it. But after being convinced by his peers, all he said was, "Don't misrepresent me. Show me as I am."[11][12] It took Dhoni two years to finally agree.[11] According to the International Business Times, the film carried a production budget of around 104 crore (US$13 million).[13]


Pandey was attracted to Dhoni's story not because of his successful cricket career, saying that "it's foolish to chase MS Dhoni's life story only because it's about cricket," but rather to instances and factors that made him the person he is today.[14] Dhoni wasn't involved in writing the script. Pandey recruited a team of researchers who collated data and background information while the director was busy directing Baby (2015).[14] The filmmakers decided that they would only green-light the film once they had a convincing story to tell after the research.[15] Pandey met with Dhoni numerous times over a span of eight months and by the eighth month of their meetings, in 2014, the main arc of the story began to form. Their first meeting took place in Delhi during a cricket match. During their sporadic meetings, Pandey chose not to record and tape their conversations which prompted Dhoni to open up more.[14][15]

Arun Pandey says 98% of the content in the film is reality. The team undertook two years of research on the various incidents and how they took place. Pandey says "such authenticity would be hard to find even in Hollywood."[11] Pandey revealed several prominent aspects of Dhoni's life that were hidden before including the fact that Dhoni initially disdained cricket and had a predilection for football instead, his signature "helicopter shot" was taught to him by his friend Santosh Lal, he likes women who don't recognise him, he and Yuvraj Singh had close ties even before their respective stardom and it was Dhoni who ousted Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid from the team since he wanted to build a young team for the 2011 World Cup with better fielders and he wasn't too happy with the 'fitness' levels of the aforementioned cricketers.[16]

Pandey decided to end the film with the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final since he felt "the arc of the story had a natural high at the 2011 World Cup win." He knew that they were chronicling almost 30 years of a sportsman's life "in a highly compressed manner" and said that had he extended the script to his sudden retirement during an ongoing series, the run time of the film would shoot up to six hours.[14]

Movie is based on real life struggle of Indian cricketer MS Dhoni.


Neeraj Pandey was in the midst of shooting Baby (2015) when Arun Pandey, the manager of Dhoni, offered him an opportunity of making a biopic based on MS Dhoni. However, Pandey was sceptical and didn't wish to tackle such a subject until he met Dhoni himself. It was only after meeting Dhoni personally – during the second schedule of Baby – that he was convinced to helm the film. Although, to him, he treated the project not as a biopic, but more as an inspiring story.[14][17] Pandey admits that he is not a fan of Dhoni and doesn't feel guilty about it. But he does have a predilection for cricket and other renowned cricketers like AB de Villiers and Sachin Tendulkar. He explained how not being a fan helped him direct the movie impartially, "I think if you are fan, as a director it would be difficult to be objective and impartial. A fan would only see positives. Even negatives will look like positives for him. So not being a fan helped me direct the movie impartially."[17] It is the director's first biopic film.[14]

Every question that came from the director or any member of the team working on the script was directly answered by Dhoni. He would clear any doubts of the director and Rajput.[11] However, he did not want the film to serve as a whitewash of his life, "One thing I told (Neeraj) Pandey is that this movie should not be to glorify me. It's about the journey of a professional sportsperson and that's what it should depict."[12]


Director Pandey, who had not seen any of Sushant Singh Rajput's films, followed his intuition when it came to casting him. Akshay Kumar wanted to play the lead role and wanted Rajput to play the younger MS Dhoni but Rajput was always the director's first choice given how both Dhoni and Rajput hail from the same part of India, which made it easy for him to get the dialect right and the fact he has a predilection for sports like Dhoni.[17] When he met Rajput and chatted with him for 15 minutes, he knew that the accent, the setting and the milieu they needed to capture would not be a problem.[10][14] Rajput admits that he is a fan of Dhoni, and describes himself as an "ardent" cricket fan.[18] Rajput's sister is a professional cricketer who once made it to the women's national team, while he himself wasn't very good at the sport no matter how hard he tried, even failing to get selected for the school team.[10][19]

Kiran More (pictured) trained Rajput in cricket for four months.

He found it difficult to get Dhoni's mannerisms right. He said that he did not pretend to be Dhoni, but actually felt like the cricketer while essaying the title role. In order to prepare for his role, he had to go through an exhaustive prolonged training for a period of 18 months before shooting began and watched his videos for hours, to a point that he subconsciously started picking up some of his traits.[10][11][20] For instance, in order to grasp Dhoni's trademark "Helicopter shot," the team would carefully analyse it and fix the bowling machine into one spot and then play the same shot at least 200 to 300 times a day for a week to a point that it came naturally to him.[18] He also met Dhoni thrice before filming commenced.[21] Former wicketkeeper Kiran More personally coached Rajput for thirteen months, including wicket-keeping and batting before he started learning Dhoni's body language.[21][22] He practiced for four hours, starting at 6:00 every morning.[11] Rajput described More as a "tough taskmaster," who treated him like a professional cricketer rather than an actor.[23] Dhoni's batting style was scientifically analysed, learnt and practised and an analyst was called on board for this. Training sessions were recorded and compared with the cricketer's real game. It took a further six months for Rajput to feel confident that he looked and played like Dhoni.[19][21]

Principal photography

Kharagpur Junction railway station, one of the real-life location used in the film where Dhoni worked as a former conductor.

The film was shot mainly in authentic and real-life locations where Dhoni spent much of his childhood and teenage years,[11][13][24] with Pandey saying that 95% of the locations in the film were authentic.[25] In an effort to stay true to the crux of the biopic, Neeraj also shot scenes from the film in Dhoni's real home in Ranchi, Jharkhand where his parents and brother Narendra currently live. Shooting also took place at Kharagpur railway station where Dhoni once worked as a Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE), his old school, Jawahar Vidya Mandir and at the quarter number 142 of Mecon Limited he shared with his four roommates while studying engineering. The filmmakers were also shown his former social hangout as well as introduced to the food he liked eating whilst growing up.[5][24] Dhoni's real school teacher was cast in the film.[26]

Filming also took place in Jamshedpur with shots filmed at Keenan Stadium,[27] and Aurangabad.[28]

Rajput learned Dhoni's signature 'helicopter' shot by the end of the first day, but suffered a hairline fracture and had to leave for two weeks.[20]


Disha Patani promoting the film at an event in September 2016.

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story received the widest release for a Bollywood film receiving a day-and-date release both in India and internationally in a total of 61 countries across approximately 4,500 screens worldwide on the week ending 2 October 2016.[12][29]

However, the film was not released in Pakistan due to problems following the 2016 Uri attack.[30][31] Sabina Islam, media and marketing manager of the distributor IMGC Global Entertainment in Pakistan told The Express Tribune, "We wouldn't want to release anything that can aggravate the current situation of the two countries. Dhoni is India's hero so it's risky."[30][32] The film was also not released in Punjabi and Marathi languages. This was because Fox had wanted to release the film on the same day-and-date but a dubbed version in the two aforementioned languages could not be produced at that time.[29]

Even though attempts were made later to dub and release the film in the Marathi language in the state of Maharashtra,[33] this was however not possible. This was because Amey Khopkar, chief of Chitrapat Karmachari Sena, the film affairs wing of regional political party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena told the filmmakers that releasing the film in the language would cause unfair competition for regional movies by giving rise to a scenario where more filmmakers will release Hindi films dubbed in Marathi, prompting Pandey to scrap the plan.[34][35]

The film was declared tax-free in Uttar Pradesh by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav a day after its release,[36][37] and in Dhoni's home state, Jharkhand, a few days later.[38] Maharashtra was also declared tax-free on 5 October by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.[39]


The filmmakers organised large promotions, which later helped the movie register good advance booking.[40] A teaser trailer was released on 15 March 2016, in conjunction with the commencement of the 2016 ICC World Twenty20.[41] The first official poster was released on 7 July 2016, on Dhoni's 35th birthday.[42] In late September 2016, the cast flew to Chennai to promote the film where Dhoni and Rajput met veteran actor Rajinikanth at his residence and discussed the film.[43]

Maruti Suzuki released two MS Dhoni inspired special edition of Alto cars – the Alto 800 and Alto K10 – as part of the company's association with the film. The two cars were unveiled by Dhoni and R S Kalsi, Maruti Suzuki India Executive Director of Marketing and Sales in Hyderabad on 24 September.[44] As a part of the association, Maruti Suzuki ran a series of customer engagement activities on social media.

The film recouped around ₹900 million (US$13.5 million) before its release via multiple platforms and ancillary; ₹550 million (US$8.2 million) from satellite rights; ₹200 million (US$3 million) from endorsement brands; ₹100 million (US$1.5 million) for overseas distribution rights; and ₹50 million (US$750,920) for music rights.[45]

Internationally, the film was released in 60 countries across 1,000 screens in conjunction with its Indian premiere. According to Vijay Singh, that marks the biggest-ever release for a Hindi film in Tamil and Telugu and one of the widest for any Indian film internationally.[12] It was released in key markets including the United States and Canada and the U.K. and in the other regular Bollywood diaspora markets in South East Asia, Africa and Europe. Through a chain of distributors the film also went out in non-regular Bollywood territories such as Japan, Spain, France, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines and the West Indies.[12]

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story Game, a cricket sports mobile video game developed by Hungama Gameshastra Pvt. Ltd. (a joint venture of Hungama and Gameshastra) was also released a tie-in item to the film.[46]

Box office


The film was released on Friday, 30 September, across approximately 3,500 screens and delivered an opening of 213 million (US$2.7 million) on its first day,[47] occupying 45–50% of the total marketplace which is the biggest opener of Sushant's career.[30] Buoyed by positive reviews, the film earned a total of 660 million (US$8.3 million) net[47] the second biggest opening for a Hindi release in 2016 behind Sultan.[31][48][49] The Tamil version of the film collected 70 million (US$880,000) in its opening weekend in Tamil Nadu, which is the highest for a film dubbed from Hindi in the state.[50]

Following its weekend debut, the film witnessed a sharp fall on Monday earning 85.1 million (US$1.1 million) and ₹75.2 million (US$940,000) on Tuesday.[51] By 11 October, the film had grossed a total of 1.16 billion (US$15 million) in India[52] and is currently the fifth highest-grossing Hindi film of 2016 in India.[53]


Internationally, the film made an estimated 219 million (US$2.7 million) in its opening weekend from 60 countries.[54] It had successful debuts in many markets, including $1.1 million in the U.S., $995,000 in the Middle East, $263,000 in the U.K. where it ranked at No. 9, and $194,000 in Australia for tenth spot.[48] The film received a limited release in the U.S. and Canada across 256 theaters and earned $1,108,650 at an average of $4,331 per theater, debuting at number 14 at the box office,[55][56] becoming the third Bollywood film of 2016 to debut above $1 million, following Sultan and Fan.[31]


Critical reception

The film received mainly positive reviews from critics.[5][30][48][57][58]

The film was noted for omitting certain aspects of Dhoni's life and in the realm of cricket that were deemed noteworthy such as the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 press conference, where Dhoni brought the entire team and read out a statement of unity, the 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting case and the alleged rift with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. The film also does not include Dhoni's take on the two-year ban imposed on Chennai Super Kings from playing in the Twenty20 which he captained at that time, which ultimately led to the Supreme Court asking N. Srinivasan to step aside as BCCI  President. The film also does not provide any explanation to Dhoni's purchase (and eventual sale) of the 15% stake in the player management firm Rhiti Sports, or why he was named the vice-president of India Cements.[5][59] While the film featured his sister Jayanti, there was no mention about his real life elder brother, Narendra Singh Dhoni, who is a politician.[60] Chanchal Bhattacharya, a specialised cricket coach who used to train young cricketers in Dhoni's school campus pinpointed at a pivotal incident during Dhoni's days which was absent in the movie: Dhoni once scored a century for East Zone in a Deodhar Trophy against Central Zone. Karsan Ghavri, who was the coach of East Zone at that time, praised Dhoni's century saying that "this lad will represent the country one day."[61]

The Hindu said, "of course such sanitisation makes the film lose out on interesting layers and complexity, but, curiously, the focused, unwavering eulogising of Dhoni also helps it get an unmistakeable emotional acuity."[5] In a more positive take, Andy Bull of The Guardian said that not every aspect of Dhoni's life could be included in the three-hour-and-10-minute-long biopic. He quoted John Briley's famous line from the script he wrote for Richard Attenborough's Gandhi: "No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime."[62]

Veteran actor Rishi Kapoor gave a positive review of the film, praising the performance of Rajput in particular.[38] Several professional Indian sportsmen and sportswomen such as cricketer Mohammad Kaif,[63] and badminton player Saina Nehwal[64] had high regards for the film.

Rachel Saltz of The New York Times gave a negative review of the film saying that "you don't have to understand cricket to enjoy a good cricket movie", e.g. Lagaan (2001), but one does "have to be a cricket fan, and an indulgent one at that" for M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story. She found the term "hagiographic" unfit for the film and labelled the film as "long and languid." She concluded saying "I learned more about Mr. Dhoni — his enigmatic character and what marked him as a great captain — by reading about him after watching this movie than I did during three long hours."[65]


Amaal Mallik composed the soundtrack for M.S. Dhoni.[66] Rochak Kohli composed one song as a guest composer. T-Series acquired the music rights for the film. The 10 song album features the voices of singers Armaan Malik, Arijit Singh, Siddharth Basrur, Rochak Kohli and Palak Muchhal; it was released in three different language versions: Tamil, Telugu and Marathi. Tamil lyrics were penned by P. Vijay, Telugu by Chaitanya Prasad and Marathi by Guru Thakur.[67] The background music was composed by Sanjoy Chowdhury.


Award[a] Date of ceremony[b] Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
BIG ZEE Entertainment Awards 29 July 2017 Most Entertaining Drama Film M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story Nominated [68]
Most Entertaining Actor in a Drama Film – Male Sushant Singh Rajput Won
Most Entertaining Actor (Film) – Male Nominated
Most Entertaining Actor in a Drama Film – Female Disha Patani Nominated
Most Entertaining Actor (Film) Debut – Female Won
Most Entertaining Singer (Female) Palak Muchhal – (for "Kaun Tujhe") Nominated
Filmfare Awards 14 January 2017 Best Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Nominated [70]
Best Female Playback Singer Palak Muchhal – (for "Kaun Tujhe") Nominated
Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 10–22 Aug 2017 Best Film M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story Nominated [71]
Best Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Won
International Indian Film Academy Awards 14–15 July 2017 Best Film M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story Nominated [73]
Best Director Neeraj Pandey Nominated
Best Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Anupam Kher Won
Best Supporting Actress Disha Patani Nominated
Star Debut of the Year – Female Won
Best Music Director Amaal Mallik Nominated
Best Male Playback Singer Armaan Malik – (for "Besabriyaan") Nominated
News18 Movie Awards 20 March 2017 Best Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Nominated [75]
Best Debut (Female) Disha Patani Nominated
Best Playback Singer (Female) Palak Muchhal – (for "Kaun Tujhe") Won
Screen Awards 4 December 2016 Best Actor (Critics) Sushant Singh Rajput Won [76]
Best Female Debut Disha Patani Won
Best Female Playback Singer Palak Muchhal – (for "Kaun Tujhe") Won
Stardust Awards 21 December 2016 Best Film of the Year M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story Nominated [77]
Best Director Neeraj Pandey Nominated
Best Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Anupam Kher Nominated
Best Debut Female Disha Patani Won
Best Music Director Amaal Mallik Nominated
Best Female Playback Singer Palak Muchhal – (for "Kaun Tujhe") Nominated
Zee Cine Awards 11 March 2017 Best Film M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story Nominated [79]
Critics Award for Best Film Nominated
Best Director Neeraj Pandey Nominated
Best Actor – Male Sushant Singh Rajput Nominated
Critics Award for Best Actor – Male Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Male Anupam Kher Nominated


  1. ^ Awards, festivals and organizations are in alphabetical order.
  2. ^ Date is linked to the article about the awards held that year, wherever possible.


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