“We are the kings, we are the kings! Chennai Super Kings…!” that’s part of a jingle perfected by Chennai Super Kings player DJ Bravo. While binging on Hotstar’s new docudrama Roar of the Lion, this was more or less the feeling. The series’ trailer went viral partially because of MS Dhoni’s admission that the biggest crime he could ever commit is not murder, but match-fixing. Dhoni’s comment made me wonder if Roar of the Lion is a tell-all series on the scandal that rocked Chennai Super Kings, forcing a two-year suspension on the team from the Indian Premier League. Does Roar of the Lion live up to the hype? Does it answer the burning questions? Let’s find out.
Roar of the Lion is a collection of five episodes running for a maximum of 30 minutes. The first episode, titled ‘What Did We Do Wrong?’ starts off with the situation within the CSK dressing room, and captain Dhoni himself, following the match-fixing drama. News clippings followed, wherein it was showed that Chennai Super Kings has been handed a ban of two years. As the episode progressed, it became clearer that this is going to be a series of how the club turned around, and how Dhoni played a part in CSK’s change of fortunes.
A considerable portion of the series is dedicated to Dhoni himself. ‘Superfans’, coaches and staff heaped praises on Dhoni for his composure, and his leadership even when the team was not facing a crisis. It is a Dhoni Entertainment Production after all. Gradually, the narrative moved towards media reports of the match-fixing scam and finally the suspension. For the first time, we get a look at the story inside the locker room. Batting coach Mike Hussey revealed that the team was disappointed and celebrations were kept to a minimum. Before the team took to the field, Dhoni, along with the coaches tried to instil a bit of calmness to the players, requesting them to ignore off-field developments and focus on the game.
It is at this point where Roar of the Lion took me by surprise. It became evident that the makers were staying clear of the scandal. The series recognises that the scandal occurred, but it doesn’t dwell on it. Director Kabir Khan possibly felt it was better to mention the murkier parts of CSK’s legacy simply as a passing fact and not elaborate on it. For those hoping for a look into how the match-fixing scandal was concocted and who did what, Roar of the Lion is not for you. Details on how the match-fixing scandal unfolded, the ownership issues with Gurunath Meiyappan and the ‘conflict of interest’ over N Srinivasan’s stake in CSK, are better discovered by reading the newspapers. Despite that omission, the series did note Dhoni admitting that punishments were necessary.
Roar of the Lion seemed more like a documentary into how Chennai Super Kings as a team, shook off the dirt surrounding it and rose from the ashes. The series shows a couple of previously unseen footage of Dhoni, and the management working on setting up a new team following the suspension. Brief clippings of the skipper debating over who’s a better pick and mulling over the kitty make for an interesting watch. There’s also an unknown part of the former India skipper that is revealed. We’ve rarely seen Dhoni show his emotions on the field. Yet in one of the episodes, Captain Cool is seen delivering an emotional speech to the newly assembled team. He keeps it short and chokes on his words until a faithful Suresh Raina hands him a bottle of water. It is evident that as captain, Dhoni shouldered a lot.
A significant portion of the series is dedicated to the fans. Ravindra Jadeja, Mike Hussey, Mathew Hayden and others admitted that the support of the fans turned out to be a morale boost for the men in yellow. CSK rose from the negative press no doubt, but Roar of the Lion fails to reveal anything that can rattle the miscreants. A five-episode series is really not long enough to reveal all the answers. Roar of the Lion is more about team building, overcoming negative press, and discovering that a talented ‘Dad’s Army’ can win titles.
Chennai is the defending champion as we head to start of IPL 2019. There couldn’t have been a better time to release the series (March 20), especially since in a few days’ time Chennai Super Kings will want their fans to go ‘Whistle Podu’ at the Chepauk stadium.