Maidaan : A treat for football buffs and Ajay Devgan fans

Regardless of the underdog template, ‘Maidaan’ must be watched in theatres to know the past glory of Indian football and a forgotten hero — Syed Abdul Rahim.
Maidaan (Hindi), 10-04-2024, Sports Biography, 3 hours 1 minute, U/A, Theatre
  • Main Cast: Ajay Devgn, Priya Mani, Gajaraj Rao, Rudranil Ghosh, and Raphael Jose
  • Director: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
  • Producer: Zee Studios, Boney Kapoor, Arunava Joy Sengupta, and Akash Chawla
  • Music Director: AR Rahman
  • Cinematography: Fyodor Lyass
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

In a cricket-frantic country like ours, it takes a lot of courage to make a movie (Maidaan) on a sport like football, that too, in a period which very few in this generation would be aware of.

There was a period when Indian football was at its peak under the coach Syed Abdul Rahim. He faced many challenges and hardships, including a battle with deteriorating health.

However, he and his team overcame many difficulties and won at the Asian Common Wealth Games 1962 in Jakarta Indonesia.

After that success, India never won again. Unfortunately, Rahim also passed away some months later and Indian football has never been the same again.


Ajay Devgn in Boney Kapoor’s ‘Maidaan’. (X)

Maidaan begins in the year 1952. India faces a shameful defeat in the Olympics. Syed Abdul Rahim (Ajay Devgn) takes on the challenge of handpicking raw talents from across the country and forms a team that wins against all odds.

Along with Rahim, the movie also throws light on legends PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, and others. There is also Priya Mani as Rahim’s wife Saira. She is an important pillar of support to Rahim.

Saira is also seen trying to learn English. Gajraj Rao plays sports journalist Prabhu Gosh. It is a role which is a far cry from Amit Sharma’s previous directorial Badhaai Ho (2018).

First and foremost, the template of Maidaan is similar to many underdog sports dramas, particularly Chak De! India (2007).

Here too, the Indian football team goes into the 1962 Olympics without any expectations of winning. It faces a humiliating defeat in the first match with Korea but makes a strong comeback, thus surprising everyone.

Works despite predictability

A still from ‘Maidaan’. (X)

Despite the predictable scenarios, what makes Maidaan work is the detailing of Amit Sharma.

The director gives a wholesome account of the events that led to India’s win at the 1962 Asian Games.

A big strength of Maidaan is the characterisation of the central protagonist.

The highs and lows of Rahim’s journey and how he crossed numerous obstacles have been well-written and enacted.

The husband and wife scenes have also come out strongly. Priya Mani’s attempts at learning English while conversing with her husband bring a smile to the viewer’s face. There is a certain old charm in their romantic scenes.

Priya Mani’s Saira is not just a dedicated homemaker. She has a voice of her own, which comes out strongly in a couple of scenes.

The actor aces her part and makes her presence amply felt.

The choreography of the football sequences is easily some of the finest you would see on the big screen.

Cinematographer Fedor Lyass along with action director RP Yadav do an outstanding job in capturing the intensity of a football match. You know how things will turn out, but still, you will clap.

AR Rahman’s music is not of the chartbuster type. However, the songs help propel the drama.

They are mostly used in the background and come at the right time. My favourite ones are “Ranga Ranga” and “Jaane Do“.

Through Maidaan, Amit Sharma has also touched upon how regional politics is a huge bane for any sport and how football is the heaviest causality.


Gajraj Rao in ‘Maidaan’. (X)

The first half of Maidaan does make the viewers impatient.

Amit Sharma’s detailing does deserve appreciation but the portions depicting the federation politics could have done with some serious trimming.

Also, the hangover of other sports films does hinder the viewing experience at some points.

As Syed Abdul Rahim, Ajay Devgn brings his trademark intensity. The actor does a terrific job of showcasing the different facets of Rahim — the passion for football and the tactical acumen. A particular mention must be made of the scenes where Ajay depicts Rahim’s battle with lung cancer while ensuring that his team wins.

Among the football players, Chaitanya Sharma as PK Banerjee deserves a particular mention. The young actor delivers a fiery performance.

Gajraj Rao and Rudranail Ghosh as the thorns in the flesh do a good job of making the viewers hate them, although the characters border on being caricaturists.

Final take

Maidaan is a big-screen experience that should not be missed.

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