(From left) Constable Sourav Karmakar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni during his Kharagpur
days and cricket coach Nilay Bera. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta
Sourav Karmakar and Nilay Bera have landed roles in a big Bollywood film, although neither has any pretensions to acting talent.
Sourav is a cop who has never faced the camera while friend Nilay is a cricket coach for whom the word "Cut!" means bringing the bat down square on the ball rather than a director's call to can a shot!
What made the Kharagpur duo instant choices for the much-anticipated biographical film is a common qualification on their CVs: both had played cricket with Mahendra Singh Dhoni long before Mahi and his mane became famous.
Sourav, 30, and Nilay, 29, were at the South Eastern Railway Sports Authority's playground in Kharagpur from dawn to dusk on Monday, reliving a practice session 14 years ago. With them were 30-odd youths, all handpicked for the shoot of Neeraj Pandey's MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.
"It was June of 2001. Dhoni bhaiyya was looking for a job and his friend Satya Prakash, whom we called Sattu bhaiyya, had brought him to the then DRM (divisional railway manager) Animesh Ganguly. The scene we shot on Monday was that of his trial at a practice session of South Eastern Railway, where Ganguly saab bowled to Dhoni," recounted Nilay.
Shooting has been completed in the recruitment cell of the divisional railway manager's office, where Dhoni had once stood in a queue to collect his appointment letter, and the DRM's office and bungalow that he used to frequent after he became close to the Ganguly family.
For Nilay, who coaches at the South Star and IIT Technology Cricket Academy, the shoot at the SERSA Stadium opened a floodgate of memories about Mahi on and off the field. Dhoni used to call Nilay "Chhotu".
In one of the scenes shot on Monday, the actor playing DRM Ganguly tells Sushant Singh Rajput, who essays the role of Dhoni: "Next week se naukri par aa jana (Join work next week)."
Nilay was then at cover point, from where he could see the Dhoni Museum at the stadium where the real Dhoni once lived in a small room. "I was a schoolboy at the time. As soon as school would give over, I would run to that room, peep through the window and ask Dhoni bhaiyya, Jayesh Shukla and Deepak Singh, who stayed together, to start practice," he recounted.
Constable Sourav recalled how the future Captain Cool once lost his cool during a match because all the players had liberally used an imported sunscreen that his cousin had gifted him. "He was furious and gave everyone a piece of his mind. He even told the team that he wouldn't bat!"
Dhoni padded up after much persuasion by the coach and vent his anger on the bowlers. He scored an unbeaten 161 off 60 balls, winning the match for his team, Sourav said.
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story tries to highlight a little-known side of Dhoni's cricket in Kharagpur - the tennis-ball matches he used to play on invitation for various clubs in exchange for remuneration, khep khela in local parlance.
Dhoni was in Kharagpur until 2004, the year his career took off like one of his helicopter shots. That year, as a 23-year-old, Mahi had scored two centuries for India A in Nairobi and was soon called to the senior team.
Policeman Sourav recounted an incident that had the future India wicketkeeper and captain stumped.
After Dhoni returned to Kharagpur from Nairobi, Sourav and his friend Rahul Chaudhuri had gone to the SERSA Stadium to get Dhoni to autograph a set of diaries.
"Dhoni bhaiyya was very surprised and said, 'Arrey tum log mere bhai ho (Come on, you are my brothers)'. Rahul replied that the diaries belonged to some schoolgirls and Dhoni bhaiyya's jaws stayed wide open. It was a sight to behold. He didn't know he had a female following here!" Sourav chuckled.