It’s a really interesting time for followers of Tamil cinema! Because, one of its finest actors turns director with Dhoni Not Out. There is usually quite some anticipation when a classy actor takes up direction everyone wants to know whether he has got it in him to create a successful movie. So, is Prakash Raj as good a director as he is an actor?
Dhoni Not Out, as a lot of you might already know, is a sharp statement on the society, the educational system and the many things that are being done in an absolutely unhealthy manner. The story is told through the life of an ordinary middle class family. The head of the family has very simple dreams; he wants to do well in his job, wants his children to get a good education from a standard institution and then make successful careers out of it. But, he faces a problem when his son does not share his dream. Like most (or all) parents in and around us at present, Prakash Raj wants his son to go the conventional way of maths and science, while his son wants to know nothing but cricket. He wakes and sleeps thinking only about the game. But, his is not an empty dream; he works towards it too, under the watchful eye of a coach, played by Nasser. Of course, he is not a centum student and that becomes the bone of contention between father and son. A tug of war of dreams and aspirations ensues. So, did Prakash Raj really win?
Dhoni Not Out successfully addresses many issues; almost all of them are burning truths about our education system. Be it the pressure cooker scenario in schools, the impetus on getting marks at any cost, the double standards of schools that boast of 100% results by making sure that only the best students are allowed to write exams, the mistakes parents can make by forcing children in directions they absolutely don’t want to follow and a lot of other small but pertinent issues are well narrated by Prakash Raj. The problem with such movies is that it can become a procession of ideologies and preachy dialogues, making it all look like an educational seminar rather than a movie. But, Prakash Raj has done extremely well to put it all in layers into a story that almost everyone can connect to at some level. One can say with quiet confidence that all students and parents will be able to identify with at least one aspect of the story like the torrents of tuitions imposed on a struggling student.
The movie maintains its focus relentlessly on the central plot. It’s all about the father, son and his education. The struggles of the salaried class in getting their children a good education, the everyday problems, small hassles in schools and the knee jerk reactions that parents give to a slight drop in marks are all well depicted in quite a fast moving first half of the movie. There is a bit of comedy, courtesy Brahmanandam, which looks amusing and doesn’t interfere much with the story. A big twist in the second half is followed by roadblock after roadblock for the protagonist. While most of them look genuine, a few look forced in to add a bit more drama to the story. And, the finishing portions could have been trimmed a bit. For a film that addresses real life issues with amazing reality almost throughout, the climax looks a bit ‘cinematic’. Also, a few scenes in the first half especially the one in which Prakash Raj goes in search of his innerwear to Radhika Apte’s house could have been avoided.
But, let’s not get too critical of some small issues here and there in an otherwise very well executed conscientious movie. This is one of the few movies that can claim to have a conscience, and a strong one at that.
We have seen Prakash Raj the performer many times before; he is as good as ever. A scene that stands top of the list to showcase his histrionics is the one where he expresses his anguish on realizing Akash’s inability in learning tables and then goes on to break his favourite bat. One only hopes Prakash gives up the shouting and glaring villain roles and does more roles like these. He once again proves that the role of a doting father suits him to a T, like the one in Abhiyum Naanum. The most important character of the movie, the schoolboy, representative of many students grappling with a one dimensional educational system, played by Akash Puri leaves an indelible mark; he has done really well under the hands of Prakash Raj. Radhika Apte too makes her mark as a neighbour. A host of other experienced performers including Nasser and Brahmanandam make Dhoni Not Out a really good experience. Camera by Guhan keeps things as real and simple as the movie requires. Isaignani’s music plays only a supporting role to the script; songs are very subtle; just the way you would want in such a script.
The story by Mahesh Manjrekar deserves a special mention. One of the best aspects of the movie is its dialogues. It is soft, real and sharp; all at the right places. Some of the statements about the educational system really make you think for quite a while.
It really should go down as a wonderful coincidence; movies that make valid comments on the educational system are a rarity in Indian cinema. But, in the space of one month, there have been two movies that have done a wonderful job of it. Nanban talked about college education, Dhoni talks about schools; but they both have a similar message – follow your heart. While many might not completely agree with everything that has been said in the movie, there will be many points that make you nod your head in approval and even introspect. And, Prakash Raj, thanks for finally deciding to direct; please, let this not be a one off attempt.
Verdict: An innings worth an ovation