The first official poster of Neeraj Pandey’s Dhoni bio-pic Dhoni – The Untold Story was released on Dhoni’s 35th birthday on July 7. Sushant Singh Rajput who plays Dhoni just can’t stop being grateful for the opportunity to play the legendary cricketer whom the actor has studied from close quarters.
Says Sushant, “There are very few films and characters which offer you a chance to better yourself as a human being. This is definitely that film for me. I’ve been a fan of Dhoni for years. I’ve seen him playing for India for ten years or so. My biggest challenge was to convince myself I was Dhoni. Having done that the rest just followed. Now I can comfortably say I haven’t played Dhoni. I AM Dhoni.”
Cricket is pivotal in Sushant’s family. He would’ve been a cricketer had he not become an actor. Explains the closet cricketer, “Actually my sister Mitu is a state-level cricketer. I did have an inclination towards cricket from a very young age. I too was a national-level player. I did think of taking up cricket as a profession when I was in Class 8-9. But it was too much family pressure. I was the youngest child and the only son. I was expected to shine in academics. It seemed like too big a risk to take up cricket as a career. I thought I had to live up to my family’s expectations. Not that I didn’t like academics. So I chose to be an engineer. I gave up my dream once. But I wouldn’t let myself give it up a second time.”
Speaking on playing Dhoni Sushant says, “I think for every actor the most challenging part of playing a character; especially a real-life character is to convince yourself that you are the character. The moment you achieve that you are safe. With Byomkesh, my director Dibakar and I had to construct that character out of our imagination.”
In Pandey’s bio-pic Sushant has attempted to penetrate Dhoni’s mind and spirit. “It was the great Sunil Gavaskar who had once said, ‘Given a chance I’d like to be in the mind of Dhoni just once to understand what he is thinking.’ I guess I am going where Gavaskar Saab wanted to. I’ve tried to walk on Dhoni’s footprints in the sand, going wherever he has been. I’ve researched him as much as possible, gone wherever he had, stayed in the places that he has. Most importantly his personality has changed. He isn’t same physically or emotionally as he was five years ago.”
Sushant has been careful not to imitate Dhoni’s physicality. “There is a very thin line dividing characterization from impersonation. I had to make sure I don’t cross over into mimicry. Dhoni has millions of fans. When they go to see the film they must not get a visual jerk in the first few frames. There mustn’t be too big a gap between his body language-speech and mine. The moment that is sorted I’ll have the audience with me. Then I can take the character forward in the way I choose to interpret it. I think I’ve done my homework well. I’ll be able to communicate Dhoni’s thought process.”