Prakash Raj is known for playing characters that carefully tread on the brink of desperation. He returns in Dhoni as Subramaniam, the frantic father of an aspiring cricketer juggling between responsibilities just to be able to sleep in peace at the end of the day. But he doesn't. Thoughts of his lackadaisical son, Karthik pound him day and night. Karthik is what many might call a typical teenager. His mind doesn't seem to have the ability to concentrate on anything other than cricket. The Board exams are only a year away and he isn't keen on coping with his studies.
Authorities at school are worried about the school's image and don't believe they have to think twice about detaining him. Subramaniam, in spite of his financial shortcomings, ensures that his children get the best education. When told that Karthik would have to repeat a year, he pleads for another chance. And he takes that chance by hiring private tutors for the boy. Earnest initially, even they leave Karthik to fend for himself. Desperation tensely builds up to an unfortunate accident. Subramaniam begins to unleash feelings of guilt and anger sprouting from a seething sense of remorse for what has happened. He feels like the victim, not the perpetrator. That is perceived reality, not actual reality. So if the character has to traverse this arc to redemption, he has to come to terms with what he's done, identify the basic cause of the problem, solve it, take precautionary measures and move on. But to continue being stuck in a perpetual state of denial? To turn that into a life-changing process? To let that ripple through the state and find its way in history books? Why drag the Chief Minister into a premise that already has enough to make it matter?
The film capitalizes on the stands firmly taken by both characters- one trying to make something out of his life while the other remains stuck in desperation of wanting to accomplish something through his son and share in his success because he believes he's long past his prime.
Unable to keep his head above water, Subramaniam takes whore money from a level-headed escort, the same one he once felt contempt for. When that's not enough, a hard-ass loan shark undergoes a change of heart and provides him full support. These are notable moments in the film but the one that sticks is the part where he wildly confronts a teacher, little aware that he's using her as perhaps, an alter ego, to confront a version of himself that he loathes.
The boy's character is coated and re-coated with the same colours. He seems completely over-the-top and unreal. He is a cricket fan and Dhoni is his inspiration. That's all that there is to him. Why are we expected to care? *Spoiler alert* Haemorrhage and coma for a slit in the forehead? I call bullsh*t.
Post-intermission, the film begins to head into the Kollywood fraternity and that's when Dhoni begins to falter. Jokes about underwear and abdomen guards can be excused since they have close to no bearing on the film. They either work at the moment or they don't.
Prakash Raj pours every inch of himself into Dhoni. He hams it up here as if Dhoni is going to mark his exit as an actor. It works well for most sequences but at other times, it recoils in equal measure. We've seen this overwrought act from Prakash Raj before, just not such an extreme version. He can snap at any instant and is more fear inducing than the hot-headed villain persona he's been resurrecting from one movie to the next.
The music numbers are the worst part of the film. One exists to celebrate Subramaniam's daughter's coming of age. Another music number attempts to rope in Prabhu Deva's fans. Yet another compares and contrasts the life of a comatose patient with that of everyone else. Wasn't this movie titled Dhoni?
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