Maidaan Review: Ajay Devgn’s familiar sports drama lacks the sporting spirit!

Sakshi Sharma
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Maidaan review

Maidaan review

Similar to Chak De India yet very much its own film, Maidaan is a typical sports drama that's engrossing but not memorable! 

Over the years, we have seen many Bollywood sports drama films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, Dangal, Lagaan, MS Dhoni, 83, and more and each of them had a unique story to tell while paying tribute to a legendary sports personality or the sport itself. But the one thing they had in common was the trope of an exhilarating, tension-building sporting spirit wrapped inside an emotional, dramatic story. By that accord, Maidaan is no different! It binds Syed Abdul Rahim's story with the rigorous sport of football to give us an entertaining biopic but it lacks that rousing effect of an encompassing, riveting sports drama! 

The film focuses on the decade of the life of an exceptional football coach, Syed Abdul Rahim, who created history by leading the Indian football team to win the 1962 Asian Cup after the defeat in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Rahim's story might not be known to many but the film’s storytelling is very familiar! A Muslim coach redeeming himself while fighting with the bureaucracy within the country and racism outside of the country, being fixated on building a team of players from all over the country but only playing for India, coming home with a victory and altering the course of history reminds you of a very popular sports drama that is etched in all of our minds. Drawing parallels between Maidaan and Chak De India is inevitable because, apart from the storyline, the characterization of players, team, and tournament beats are the same. The team wins against the same opponents in the final match whom they lost against in the first, facing an aggressive opponent, a sudden winning streak, and the infamous 70-minute-like motivational speech. The only difference is that while Kabir Khan had a female hockey team to coach, Rahim had a male football team! 

Also Read: Bade Miyan Chote Miyan review: Tired tropes, blasphemous dialogues and subpar acting makes this one a dreadful watch!

Given its similarities with Chak De India, Maidaan isn’t any less of a film. It has a voice of its own. In fact, the familiar tropes add to the film's benefit, which otherwise has faults of its own. The film considers Syed Abdul Rahim its only hero and focuses on telling his story in two ways! One is a melodramatic period piece about the rise of an underdog maverick coach who fights with an overdose of odds stacked against him - lung cancer, the football federation, socialist problems of the newly independent India, struggling financial funds, and meddling journalists; the other is a true sports drama of a genius coach who builds a team of good individualistic football players and trains them to be united. This isn't necessarily a bad idea only if both ideas were married in a well-built concoction while giving space to other characters. 

But the film oscillates between a biopic and a sports film, and we only get to see a caricaturish biopic sports drama where the story becomes about the villainous Bengali fundamentalists who keep interrupting football matches and players with their politics. However, the edge-of-the-seat moments of the film lie in its choreographed football matches that are masterfully shot in a way where the camera understands that football is a sport only played by the use of feet. And the excellent commentary delivered by Vijay Maurya and Abhilash Thapliyal adds excitement between the matches, which the screenplay can’t do. The film’s lack of emotional depth, character development, and unnecessary diversions make you feel distant from it. Rahim’s tactics, the team’s comradery, or their bone-breaking, soul-crushing, victorious win at the film's climax does very little for this film. Hence, Amit Ravindernath Sharma's sports drama isn't formidable despite having some moments and A R Rahman's music. It falls into the trap of following a cliche set pattern of sports film without realizing the structure or depth every ingredient needs.

It has been 64 years since the Indian football team's historic win, and we, as Indians, still haven't seen our country's name in International football. With its story of a team that won a trophy through merit and not by fluke, this film could have been an excellent opportunity to inspire building that team back again, but unfortunately, it falls short of doing so. After three hours of the film, as the end credits roll with the real players' faces alongside the uncanny lookalikes of actors cast for them, I just wished if only the film could have provided more to make me feel their victory like mine! 

Maidaan is currently running in theatres near you! 

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Ajay Devgn Amit Ravindernath Sharma Maidaan