Maidaan Review: A MATCH WINNER

Maidaan: Indian biopic directed by Amit Sharma, produced by Boney Kapoor, Zee Studios. Stars Ajay Devgn, Priyamani, Gajraj Rao, depicts Syed Abdul Rahim, renowned football coach (1952-1962).

General Rating

In a nut-shell:


Maidaan Cast/ Actors: Ajay Devgn as Syed Abdul Rahim, Priyamani as Saira, Gajraj Rao as Roy Choudhry

Maidaan Director: Amit Sharma

Maidaan Release Date: April 11, 2024

Maidaan Available On: Theatrical Release (likely to be released on Amazon Prime Video OTT Platform)

Maidaan Released/ Available In Languages: Hindi

Maidaan Duration: 181 Minutes

Maidaan Critic Review:

On the field, it’s the victory of India Coach Syed Abdul Rahim and his Team Hindustan.

On-screen, it’s the triumph of Indian Cinema as director Amit Ravindranath Sharma and his team of writers craft a film with storytelling skills and technical finesse that can equal the best anywhere.

In the 50s, instead of playing rivals out there on the football ground, it was the game itself that was being kicked around the parochial board room of the Federation headquartered in Calcutta. India Coach Syed Abdul Rahim (Ajay Devgn) had to put in as much effort in battling the boardroom bullies and the power of publisher Roy Choudhry (Gajraj Rao), as he had to in putting together and training a match-winning Team Hindustan.

‘Shame’, screamed Roy’s daily newspaper as India and its barefoot players returned home from the Helsinki Olympics (1952) scoring 0 on the scoreboard. “Our players need shoes to play internationally and we rely too much on old star players,” reports Coach Rahim, asking for the freedom to choose his players. The Federation backs him.

But Rahim quoting Elvis Presley’s ‘Don’t criticise what you don’t understand’ line to a sneering Roy sets off a series of manipulations.

There is a whiff of Chak De! India as Rahim has to first get his players to shed regional identities and play together as Team Hindustan. But there’s a freshness in the way Amit Sharma and his writers (Akash Chawla, Sidhant Mago, Saiwyn Quadras, Aman Rai, Arunava Joy Sengupta, Ritesh Shah, and Atul Shahi) bring in the players, each with his unique skills but energy a common factor.

A local boy kicking the ball around with the skill of Pele with only AR Rahman’s lively background (BG) score and Syed Rahim silently following him around the streets. Another player bursting with energy pulling the rickshaw while the astonished rickshawala sits behind like a customer.

From 0 on the scoreboard to facing Aussie sledging to being called the Brazil of Asia, the viewer has a tear in the eye as the stadium stands up to cheer Team India.

By half-time, you’ve met and travelled with Team Hindustan and you’ve been introduced to Syed Rahim’s endearing relationship with wife Saira (Priyamani), drawing you into a family that’s wholesome.

You’ve also been introduced to the machinations that have replaced Syed as coach and his cough that has grown into a dire medical verdict. Once again, AR Rahman’s BG takes over, direness and thunderlike notes in the score as a beaten Syed Rahim walks in the rain.

Along with Rahman’s BG score that elevates the many emotional turns, the cinematography grabs attention – camerawork with sepia tones (Tushar Kanti Ray) and the aggressive energy of the game captured by a special team of cameramen (led by Fyodor Lyass).

The heartaches that get compounded when Finance Minister Morarji Desai almost grounds the team before take-off, an Indian official’s political remark at the Asian Games in Indonesia which triggers violent protests against Team Hindustan and Syed Rahim’s deteriorating health make for an engrossing last hour.

Like Lagaan, the triumph of the makers is in creating moments that have the viewer spontaneously putting his hands together in applause as if watching a do-or-die live match while other moments bring a lump to the throat. Stay for the end credits, they’ll have you clapping as much you do for the gold won by Team Hindustan at the Asian Games in 1962.

The drawbacks would be the length that’s indulgent at a little over three hours and the tendency to go overboard with portraying Roy and stooge Shubhankar (Rudranil Ghosh) like typical Hindi movie stereotypes. But when Roy has a change of heart after pondering over how sirf ek aadmi could change the game for India, it’s evident in his body language and not in cliché forgive-me dialogue.

Mercifully, Sharma and team don’t replay the communal victim card of Chak De! India as Syed Rahim could be any India coach caught in the politics of boardroom parochialism.

Outstanding performances are led by Ajay Devgn, a man of few words but impactful when he lands a verbal punch. His motivational ‘ek’ speech in the changing room that stirs his team to go out as one is as well delivered as his emphatic reply to the Aussie team. It’s the stuff that wins an actor a National Award.

Priyamani is strong in her own way, especially when she tells off her husband that her house is not for those waiting around for death. “Go out and do what you’re meant to do so that you can die in peace.” From Gajraj Rao to commentators Abhilash Thapliyal and Vijay Maurya who remain unchanged over the decade, the casting is in sync with the highs and sighs of the football team and its coach.

A special mention to producer Boney Kapoor: you need jigar to withstand the costly vicissitudes of nature’s fury and still believe unstintingly in the creative team.

To Amit Sharma, I say, badhai ho!

Maidaan- Watch It Or Not?: Watch it to experience a potpourri of emotions and cheer what ek banda can do when politics threatens a game.

Maidaan Score Rating: 4 out of 5 (i.e. 4/5)

Maidaan Official Trailer:

Maidaan Official Trailer (Credits: Zee Studios)

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