MAIDAAN Review: Don’t miss this epic biopic as Ajay Devgn scores a winning goal here!

Movie: Maidaan
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Priyamani, Gajraj Rao
Director: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of 5
Verdict: This inspirational biographical sports drama is a must-watch!

There’s no denying that we Indians have always had a soft spot for sports movies! One could largely associate it to the fact that when it comes to international sports, we have often gone from being the underdogs to proving ourselves as winning horses taking the world by surprise time and again before we came to establish our dominion in several sporting events globally. So, to see a dark horse fight and overcome all obstacles to succeed and finally emerge victorious is a key element that we empathise with and love in our movies. Filmmakers have exploited this ingredient on celluloid many a times, some more successfully than others. Maidaan comes in the former category as the director and the lead actor nail it to near-perfection as they bring alive on screen the true story of one of the greatest Indian legends of football – the late coach Syed Abdul Rahim, who is also regarded as the architect of Indian football.

To be honest, while I do enjoy the occasional World Cup and other Football Club matches, I had never heard of this legendary coach and a quick askance around revealed that surprisingly neither had most of Indian football fanatics. And this film triggers a kind of embarrassment of not being aware of our very own under-rated greats who ought to be celebrated more and their achievements in putting India out there made common knowledge.

It was under the vision and leadership of coach Syed Abdul Rahim (Ajay Devgn) that the team succeeded in leaving its indelible mark in international football. The film spans his colossal journey from 1952 to 1962 as he sets out on a mission to put India out there on the global football map. Rahim’s unparalleled dedication, determination and passion towards this one goal is met by resistance in the form of petty internal politics within the football association that is influenced and driven by a few corrupt men who place egos and selfish ambitions over national victory. At the price of sacrificing his own family life at times, Rahim pursues his only dream – to put together a team that would triumph and create football history by winning when no one expects them to even qualify – and in this he is supported by a loving family especially his wife Saira Rahim (Priyamani). From going about an unconventional way of choosing his players to represent India at the Olympics and Asian Games to taking on red tapism of bureaucracy, Rahim refuses to give up even when his bad health wears him down.

It also highlights the unforgiving circumstances in which Indian players tried to win laurels for their motherland. Budget cuts to not even having the right shoes to play the sport, and caste and state politics, the film unveils the challenges known and unknown that the brave players faced. Simply put this was a story asking to be told and I do hope that many more filmmakers bring forth such poignant stories on the screen. While the movie has its heart in the right place, the impressive execution is where the filmmakers score their points.

Ajay Devgn plays the coach with a lot of dignity and this is easily one of his best performances in recent times. He is a man of few words, but each time he does speak up, he hits home and scores a goal with the audience. He shows great restraint playing a character where he could have gone overboard. Kudos to the director here who does complete justice to the actor in him. One of the best things about the film is that it steers clear of OTT jingoism!

Also comparisons are inevitable and one instantly and rather sub-consciously starts to gravitate towards drawing parallels with Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De India! but as the movie progresses, the hit hockey sports drama gets edged out and this football film grasps your attention fully. By the half, you are totally invested in this story and you see yourself cheer the team, feel the pain of the players and the mentor and find yourself on the edge of the seats as the climax of the final match draws near. The dialogues are simple, and make a point, though they lack a punch in several spaces when needed. The cinematography deserves a star of its own and so does the colour grading as we loved the sepia toned treatment throughout. The songs and music by AR Rahman are a highlight too and do complete justice, especially ‘Team India Hain Hum’.

When it comes to performances, all the players are well cast and make a mark. Devyansh Tripathi as Syed Shahid Hakim (Rahim’s son), Baharul Islam as the President of the Football association Anjan, Chaitanya Sharma as ace football player PK Banerjee, are all impressive. Madhur Mittal, Davinder Gill, Tejas Ravishankar, Sushant Waydande also win hearts with their portrayals of the real players.

Among the drawbacks, though their performances don’t leave any scope to complain, Gajraj Rao as Roy Chaudhary, and Rudranil Ghosh as Shubhankhar do look more caricaturish in their portrayal as the main villainish characters who create hurdles for Rahim through the journey. But all in all, the film makes for a great watch. It moves you at the right turns, keeps you engrossed and makes you a spectator for real on their Maidaan! All in all, impressive direction and Ajay Devgn’s performance single-handedly helps the film raise the bar by several notches. Do not miss this one!


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