MS Dhoni: The Untold Story — a biopic on the Indian national cricket team's former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, starring Sushant Singh Rajput — is releasing worldwide on Friday, 30 September. There has been huge hype and several promotional activities around the film, with Dhoni himself leading the campaign from the front.
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story has been dubbed into Tamil and is releasing in a record 205 screens in Tamil and 25 multiplex screens in Hindi. This is the highest number of screens for a dubbed film in Tamil. The advance booking for the Hindi original is as good as a big hero Tamil film in the Chennai multiplexes. But what has caught the trade totally by surprise is the huge pressure among theatres to play the Tamil dubbed version. The Tamil trailer of the film has crossed 1 million views — a number no dubbed film is normally able to generate.
Vettri Theatre in Chromepet, a suburb of Chennai, normally plays early morning shows of big hero Tamil films for fans of that particular actor. MS Dhoni: The Untold Story is the first Hindi film dubbed into Tamil which has been slotted for a morning show, at 8 am. Rakesh Gowthaman of Vettri Theatre says, “I’m amazed by the unbelievable advance booking for MSD in Tamil at our screen. It has been sold out for the Friday 8 am show, and advance booking for the weekend is very good. We may increase the number of shows depending on the film's report after the release.”
In Tamil Nadu, the top five Bollywood actors are Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, and to a certain extent, Akshay Kumar. Other heroes normally do not get a wide release and are restricted mostly to Chennai and Coimbatore multiplexes. Rakesh Gowthaman explains, "I have never played a Sushant Singh Rajput film before in my screens. People in Chennai love MSD, they are coming to watch his biopic and the trailer has created a lot of curiosity.”
MSD has the right connect with Chennai, as he was the captain of the popular Chennai Super Kings franchise of the IPL. And when CSK was banned for two years, there was a huge sympathy wave for the team in cricket crazy Chennai. And the kind of promotions Fox Star Studios did for MS Dhoni: The Untold Story have ensured the huge advance booking opening for the film.
Dhoni and Sushant Singh Rajput interacted with their fans at Chennai’s popular Sathyam Cinemas. The show was anchored by popular Tamil TV anchor Dhivyadharshini, and Dhoni won the crowd when he delivered a punchline from a Rajinikanth film. In an earlier interview, he had said Rajinikanth and Suriya are the two actors he likes best; so Suriya's children Diya and Dev interacted with him at the promotional event, as their mother (the actress Jyothika) watched from the audience. And the icing on the cake was Dhoni and Sushant's private meeting with superstar Rajinikanth, which went viral.
All this has ensured that MS Dhoni: The Untold Story in Hindi and its dubbed Tamil version will take a very good opening in Tamil Nadu.
On the downside, theatre owners are a little worried about whether or not the audiences will sit through the 3-hour 10-minute biopic? Also, in the trailer, there are no references visually to CSK as Dhoni is shown playing in the Team India uniforms or white flannel.
It seems unlikely that those will be major sticking points. Any way you look at it, the film has hit a six even before its release.