Cinema with a purpose is the dictum Duet Movies goes by. Dhoni (U) isn't an exception. Prakash Raj, the actor, who has carved a niche for himself in a wide range of roles, enters the fray as director, producer and protagonist, and turns up trumps. None would have expected such a neat narration from Prakash Raj. Dhoni may be his first directorial attempt in Tamil, but in many a sequence he overtakes the actor in him.

Prakash Raj couldn't have timed the release better! When the entire country is shocked by the murderous instincts in kids in the light of a recent incident, comes Dhoni, a sensitive film on their psyche. Dhoni offers parents and teachers several points to ponder!

Bogged down by the dictates of commercialism, makers tend to compromise. Not Prakash Raj! Despite doing away with duets, dances, fights and comedy, Dhoni sustains your interest throughout. Kudos to this filmmaker's guts and conviction! However, Prabhu Deva makes a friendly presence for the song, ‘Vaangum Panathukkum,' and the relief it offers is just right.

The story of Karthik (Aakash), a Class IX student, a wizard with a bat, but a little backward in academics, points out the asinine nature of folks, for whom life beyond formal education is unthinkable. Extra-curricular excellence is a waste of time, his father Subramaniam (Prakash Raj) is made to believe. And when he realises his folly and the fault in our system, it is too late… Or is it?

That Mahesh Manjrekar and his Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho in Marathi is the source of Dhoni doesn't take away the credit for the treatment from Prakash Raj and Gnanavel.

As for the actors, teenager Aakash shows considerable promise. So does Sri Teja, the girl, who plays his sister Kaveri. And Radhika Apte of the Marathi and Hindi screen has eyes that speak volumes! Murali Sharma is another Mumbai import, who after the initial roar, switches to silent mode, and loses fizz. Yet, on the whole, characters in Dhoni are well-rounded.

The appearances of Nasser, the cricket coach, and ‘Thalaivaasal' Vijay, the neurosurgeon, may be few and far between, but both prove their mettle even in the limited screen time. In fact, at certain points it is Prakash Raj, you feel, who could have toned down his expressions a little. All the same, his performance in several scenes, viz. at the hospital, where his façade of levity crumbles into dejection and helplessness is memorable.

The fun element comes in the form of Brahmanandam and Chaams — two actors whose comic takes in Payanam made you crease up. But they don't tickle the funny bone as much this time. Sarath Babu is a surprise. He appears after a hiatus, as the humane CM of the State, though for just a few minutes!

Incidents such as the money lender's sudden change of heart are implausible aspects of Dhoni. But you are happy they happen, because you don't want to watch a depressing saga on the lines of Kamal's Mahanadhi. Problems should come to an end and solutions should be in sight — they do in Dhoni.

Dialogue, courtesy Gnanavel, is witty and astute for the most part. But the 17X8 kind of arithmetic tables that recur too often, till the end, get exasperating after a while. Imperfect lip sync in the case of a few actors, who so obviously seem to be talking in a different tongue, is another negating factor.

Music is a fine segment of Dhoni. Song wise, Ilaiyaraja's male solos make you tap your feet in appreciation. But it's his RR that works wonders. The impact of a light-hearted scene at an ordinary workplace, such as the Government Registrar Office, gets enhanced by Raja's lilting RR. And the empowering music in the finale lifts not just the ball but our hearts too! Prakash Raj's social consciousness warrants recognition. Grant it to him. Dhoni's tagline, ‘Not Out,' is an understatement. ‘A Straight Six' is more like it. So what if the film is about cricket? It's Advantage Dhoni!

Dhoni

Genre: Sentiment

Director: Prakash Raj

Cast: Prakash Raj, Radhika Apte, Aakash, Nasser

Storyline: The boy lives and breathes cricket, but those around him will not allow him to pursue his passion.

Bottomline: A winning score!