Movie Review: ‘Maidaan’

Ajay Devgan gives befitting tribute to football coach SA Rahim, in the exhilarating sports flick Maidaan. A Review by Dr Priyaankaa Mathur.

Director Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s sports flick Maidaan celebrates the game of football that felt the heartbeat of the nation during the 1950s and 1960s, under the mentorship of the revered coach Syed Abdul Rahim (Ajay Devgn). It was under him that India won two gold medals, one each in the Asian Games of 1951 and 1962, much before cricket took over the sports scene in India.

The film takes you back to the golden era of Indian football (1950s -60s), which most people of the present day do not know. Even actor Ajay Devgan addressing the media, confessed that he did not sadly know much about the football heritage of India, before he started working on the project.

Maidaan portrays a field, where the sport is important more than an individual, irrespective of one’s religion, ethnicity and caste. Thus, the film revolves around the selection of players for the national football team as suggested by Coach Rahim, the only criteria being their technical brilliance in the game of football.

The film moves with an undercurrent of regional bias and not religious. Bengal was the then centre of football and the state headquarters of All India Football Federation. The film depicts the power struggles between Rahim and Rudranil Ghosh the Federation Chief, who was bagged by an egoistic yet influential sports journalist (Gajraj Rao), a fowl player indeed.

They rather played politics, in the federation rather than thinking about the game, the players and the right coach. While, Coach Rahim who was born in Hyderabad, had spent most of his life in Calcutta, taking head-on all the struggles to raise Indian football to the global arena. Thus, the game got stuck more into bureaucratic issues of the federation  leading to the game’s downfall, which was never raised after coach Rahim’s passing away.

Although there have been many biopics on sports, what makes this film distinct is that it sticks to the true story of coach Syed Abdul Rahim, his selection of the team as per real-life characters, and the brilliant real-time play of the actors on the ground, which is shot brilliantly.

Ajay Devgan playing the revered coach Raheem Saheb, is remarkable because he has completely transformed from his macho Singham self to Rahim a man of calm demeanour. Coach Rahim is a silent observer, who expresses through his eyes. He is a tall man who walks with an arched back,a chain smoker,who’s vigilant and watches each player play with eagle sharp precision. He is simple, honest and a dedicated coach, who is still regarded as the Father of Indian Football (Pitahma) in Bengal. Devgan captured well the coach’s intensity and conviction, who emerged stronger with his life’s struggles.

The biopic showcases the very essence, agony and pain of Rahim, while he suffered from lung cancer.His wife Runa (Priyamani) re-ignites his passion to live till he achieves his last dream. You feel moments of pain and nostalgia, while he struggles to lead team India to the finals, irrespective of all odds, supporting and strategising till they win.Some scenes are captivating, while he raises the morals of the team with a powerful speech referring to the ‘power of one’, and then the let’s go, get them’ anthem, which leads to India beating  opponents in the finale.

What makes the film enthralling is its superb cinematography, capturing the highspeed football action, every hit, every twist and turn, on and off the field be it on the streets of Bengal or the football turfs. While,the selection sequences of each player take you to his background story intermingling with the main plot.

Not to miss is the casting of the film, which beautifully captures a real-life picture comparative of each player in the end, with the actors playing the football legends P.K.Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, Jarnail Singh, Peter Thangaraj, and Tulsidas Balaram.

A must-watch family entertainer, which drives not only patriotic fervour but also respect and love for the game of football, through the inspiring story of a legendary coach SA Rahim, the real hero of Indian football.

FF Ratings: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️