Roar of the lion: This ode to CSK doesn’t quite hit its highs
Loyalty is celebrated in this Hotstar documentary on the defending Indian Premier League champions, Chennai Super Kings
Roman orator and statesman, Cicero, once said, "Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable, than loyalty." And in sport, this especially rings true. It is this attribute Amir Rizvi focusses on in the Roar of The Lion, a documentary meant to celebrate the current Indian Premier League champions, Chennai Super Kings. The five-episode show begins with a reference to the day when the Justice Lodha Commission handed CSK a two-year ban from the league following betting allegations against Gurunath Meiyappan, the son-in-law of the club’s owner, N Srinivasan. "When Guru's (Gurunath) name came up, he was part of the team, yes. In what capacity, it is debatable. No one introduced Guru as the owner; we only knew him as the son-in-law," says Dhoni in a voice-over, noting that this was the darkest phase of his career.
Cast: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Shane Watson
Director: Amir Rizvi
Indian cricket fans are quite notorious for being forgiving, but haven’t really extended this to players tainted by matchfixing. One of India's most celebrated captains — Azharuddin — remains stranded at 99 Test appearances following fixing charges against him. So, you could forgive some for wondering if CSK sink into oblivion following its ban. The fans have ensured this isn’t the case, and Roar of The Lion is an attempt to sketch this resurgence.
Just like the trajectory of CSK's journey in the 2018 IPL, Roar of The Lion too starts off with a bang, and talks about pressing issues like the shifting of Chennai's home venue due to Cauvery River protests, and even covers the trolling of the team, on occasion, with references to the ‘Chennai Senior Kings’ label, for the team having many players on the wrong side of 30. I give full points to the makers for addressing the elephant in the room: Dhoni's involvement in the fixing scandal. You have cricket analyst Ayaz Memon summarising the whole controversy by saying, "Dhoni was CSK's conscience, and if that is questioned, nothing else remained anymore."
Dhoni predominantly responds with unsurprising retorts: "The problem with being strong is no one comes to ask you how you were dealing with the problem.” He later says, "The biggest crime I can commit is not murder, but match-fixing." He even throws in a line about how dragging his name into the mud would serve to kill people's trust in close matches and improbable victories. If you’re invested in the team, as I am, it’s hard to hold back your tears during that famous emotional speech by Dhoni, where he talks about CSK's comeback into the IPL.
That said, skepticism does creep in when you notice Dhoni Entertainment Production being listed in the opening credits. The first couple of episodes of the documentary do what they set out to: Look to explain the phenomenal love CSK fans showed on their beleaguered team. This is done by having a set of fans deliver heartfelt monologues about their passion for Dhoni and his three-time IPL Champions.
While the first two episodes leave you smiling, and even moved to tears, the next two are disappointments. It all begins to feel like an IPL 2018 showreel with Dhoni and co saying lines that have been said a number of times already. Roar of the Lion loses steam in the middle, and becomes rudderless — in a sense, like how CSK themselves were going through a torrid run during the middle of IPL 2018.
However, when you have Dhoni in the middle of it all, you know the match isn't quite over, and there is always the possibility of a last-over flourish. That's exactly what happens as the writing in the final chapter cleverly mixes the highlight reel from the final two matches against Sunrisers Hyderabad, with the players elaborating on the sweet feeling of success. I won't deny that it felt special when Dhoni announces that they have finally lived by the tagline of the CSK: Thirumba vandhuttomnu sollu (Declare now that we are truly back).
There is a scene in this documentary where the famous yellow-paint sporting, wig-wearing Dhoni fan, Saravanan Hari, delivers a poignant dialogue about his favourite team's two-year absence: "It felt like losing a family member, forever". Roar of The Lion aims to be an ode to these kind of fans, but despite some moving moments, you have got to say that Chennai Super Kings and its incredily loyal fans deserve better.