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Rahim Saab & Asian Games: Maidaan keeps Indian football alive even at its worst times

Published at :April 23, 2024 at 6:02 PM
Modified at :April 23, 2024 at 6:02 PM
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(Courtesy : Ajay Devgn Instagram)

Atawaris Warsi

Maidaan is not only a biography but a whistle-blow aimed at a cricket-obsessed nation.

Imagine a dusty trophy tucked away in a forgotten corner of the attic. Maidaan is like that trophy – a reminder of a time when India dominated Asian football, a forgotten chapter in the nation’s sporting history. Director Amit Ravindernath Sharma polishes this relic, revealing the story of Syed Abdul Rahim, the architect behind that golden era.

The film isn’t just a biography; it’s a whistle-blow aimed at a cricket-obsessed nation. Ajay Devgn steps onto the field as Rahim, a chain-smoking coach with a burning passion to revive Indian football. Maidaan avoids sugary nostalgia, and instead focuses on showcasing the raw talent and unwavering grit of young footballers in a newly independent India.

On top of that, A.R. Rahman’s background score is like a perfectly timed tackle, propelling you into the heart of the action. The camera breathlessly tracks the players, their sweat and blood, testament to their dedication. Slow-motion sequences and sharp editing dissect Rahim’s innovative 4-2-4 formation, showcasing the intricate plays that brought them victory. What also impresses the viewer is the color and set design, that duly presents that era.

Maidaan isn’t afraid to step off the field. It tackles bureaucratic red tape and political manoeuvring that threatened to sideline Rahim’s vision. While the antagonists might feel like caricature villains at times, the film effectively portrays the struggles of passionate individuals fighting for change within a flawed system.

The film’s runtime is a marathon, but surprisingly engaging. We get glimpses into the players’ personal lives, like Rahim’s bittersweet relationship with his son, overlooked for the sake of the team. However, the exploration of team dynamics and locker room camaraderie feels like a missed penalty kick. There’s also a deep contrast between the first and the second half of the movie, with the movie picking up good pace post intermission.

Maidaan has its flaws. The predictable villain trope and lack of depth in exploring the players’ experiences weaken the film’s emotional impact. Rahim’s personal life, including his love for Urdu poetry and his wife’s struggle to learn English, feels like a fumbled pass.

But here’s the thing: Maidaan is more than the sum of its parts. Devgn’s performance is captivating, the matches are electrifying, and the film’s message of resilience resonates. Football fans and anyone yearning for a movie celebrating dedication, teamwork, and the transformative power of sport will find Maidaan a satisfying watch.

The film’s box office struggle, despite critical acclaim, highlights the current preference for crowd-pleasing entertainment over thought-provoking cinema. Maidaan is more than just a movie; it’s a rallying call. Will it reignite the passion for football in a new generation? Will it inspire viewers to support films that elevate Indian cinema? That, dear reader, remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: Maidaan is a reminder of a forgotten glory, a dusty trophy with the potential to spark a revolution. 

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