Neeraj Pandey is a man of few words. Not like Prabhu Deva though, thankfully. Pandey talks only what is required and refuses to divulge any other information, which he feels is not needed to be revealed for the moment. So questions about his upcoming films, Crack and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha drew a big blank. Much like his directorial acumen, his style of answering too is simple, precise and to the point. No extra frills or thrills. And unlike others who would have probably jumped at the opportunity of directing a biopic on Dhoni’s life, Neeraj decided to take the plunge only after meeting MS Dhoni himself.
“I was shooting for Baby when Arun Pandey offered me Dhoni’s biopic. I wasn’t sure about making it until I met the man himself. Only after meeting him was I convinced about directing the film,” revealed Neeraj. Film and not biopic is how Neeraj chooses to see MS Dhoni: The Untold story. “I don’t treat this as a biopic. I see it as an inspiring story.”
Also helming a new genre has never exactly been a challenging task for Neeraj and it was no different while filming Dhoni too. “Genres are not challenging. It doesn’t matter what genre you are dabbling in. It is the story that matters. And as a writer, it is your challenge to see that every story has a start, a middle and an end,” averred the ace director.
While almost the entire nation may swoon over Dhoni, it surely comes as a shocker to know that Neeraj is not a fan of the cricketer. “I am not a fan,” remarked Neeraj.
WATCH VIDEO: MS Dhoni On His Involvement In Making Of His Biopic
“I am not a fan. I have a right to not be a fan. I am not a fan of any one,” Neeraj reiterated and went on to explain how not being a fan helped him while directing the film. “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.”
He may not be a fan of Dhoni but he certainly loves cricket and has his own few favourites. “I like AB de Villiers and Sachin Tendulkar.” And is Dhoni aware of Neeraj not being his fan? “Oh yes. He knows I am not his fan,” shrugged the director nonchalantly.
While Dhoni may be a very private person in real life, his celluloid drama will give us a full glimpse of his romances including the one with his ex-girlfriend played by newcomer Disha Patani. And for Neeraj to get Dhoni to open up about his personal life was not too hard. “It was very easy. He knew the way it was going to be. Also, he has a very sharp mind and once he understood what he is in for and that the story of his personal life is needed to do justice to the film, it became very easy for him to share his life story.”
Unlike other biopics, Neeraj, in his opinion, has kept much of fiction at bay in this one.”We have taken creative liberties but not in the fabric of the film. The liberties have been taking to compress time and space. Nothing else has been fictionalised.”
Veering the conversation towards the man essaying Dhoni in reel life-Sushant Singh Rajput gets Neeraj talking. “Sushant Singh Rajput was always my first choice. Two or three factors helped in his case. He and Dhoni are from the same part of India. So it was easy for him to get the dialect right. He is also keen on the sport and there was always a striking resemblance to Dhoni. Also, Sushant is a good actor.”
As someone who has now seen and worked with Dhoni closely, Neeraj feels the cricketer’s almost superhuman ability to remain calm in pressure cooker situations is the result of his mental strength. “I think it is his mental strength. He has amazing mental strength. He has the capacity to absorb anything,” said Neeraj.
While it is too early to say if reel Dhoni will win him any applause, the filmmaker is not too bothered about losing out on awards after delivering a blockbuster like Baby. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t go for awards. So it doesn’t bother me. Audience appreciation is my greatest award and reward.”