After Much Anticipation, I Finally Watched ‘Maidaan’ & Here’re The Things I Loved And Hated About It

Soumya Das

The one Bollywood movie I have been looking forward to watching for a long time is the Ajay Devgn starrer ‘Maidaan’. After multiple delays in the release, ‘Maidaan’ finally hit the theaters this Eid and I made sure to have the tickets for the first day first show. And boy did the film deliver to my expectations from the first scene. 

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The film portrays the ‘Golden era’ of Indian football under the legendary coach SA Rahim. Its breathtaking visuals of on-field action, well-researched showcasing of the Indian landscape in the decade after independence, with the actors nailing the emotional and enthralling scenes take you for a stellar cinematic experience in the theaters. Though I liked the movie for the majority of the part, a few elements of it made me go WTF and left me disappointed with the thought of how great the movie could have been. 

Here’s a list of the things I thought were great about the movie, and a parallel list of stuff where I think the movie faltered.

1. Great representation of the ‘Golden era’, but factual errors

The movie does a great job of encapsulating this era from 1952 to 1962 when we were a force to reckon with in world football. Because of the lack of records, the makers went to a great extent to talk to people and gather the stories.

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I understand one takes artistic freedom for the best cinematic experience. But in a movie where you are showing the actual events like the Olympics and Asian Games, you can at least show the scoreline correctly. For example, in the Asian Games finals where India defeated South Korea 2-1, we didn’t go one goal down first as shown in the movie. Rather Korea only scored their solitary goal after we had scored twice. Sure,the comeback is great for the climax, but these are FACTS.

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2. The hits and misses of the Commentary

I liked Vijay Mauarya and Abhilash Thapliyal in the commentary box, providing the needed exposition with charged emotions and information. Their commentary made us aware of the vital info about the socio-political scenario of the time and the then rules of the game.

But the occasional ridiculous dialogues like “Deni bhi chahiye, isme free kick nahi denge toh aur kya denge” were unnecessary and borderline cringe. “Korea ka penalty ka 90…maaf kijiyega 99 pratishat conversion rate hai”, okay but in what, Asian Games, their entire history, give me context to the numbers, please.

3. Great protagonists, cartoonish antagonists

Ajay Devgn as the main protagonist coach SA Rahim is just brilliant with his intense eyes and calm demeanor. The team players played by Chaitanya Sharma and Amartya Ray also delivered their best. 

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But the movie disappoints with the portrayals of the antagonists, mostly the bureaucrats, who are comically evil, singing and devouring Rasogollas without any care about the game. The only menacing villain is Gajraj Rao, who also lacks any character layers. 

4. The players need some stories and character layers too

Yes, it’s a biographical film on the life of SA Rahim, which Devgn portrays with great conviction, but we get to know little to nothing about the players and their interpersonal relationships. The movie is a decent character study of Rahim, but all the other players and the antagonists are reduced to one-note characters.

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5. The epic but repeatitive in-game action sequences

The match sequences in this movie are simply Epic and one of the best portrayals of a sport I have ever seen in a movie. The haunting visuals of the Indian players playing barefoot, and the POV shots make you feel part of the action fighting side by side with the players.

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But what I found off was the players using only sliding tackles to win the ball. Sure it adds to the thrill on screen, but in reality, players only use sliding tackles in desperate situations. It felt like the action director’s idea about tackles came only from playing FIFA video games.

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6. An underwhelming anthem amidst the great music

The songs in the movie are by A R Rehman which set the perfect mood for the narrative. Particularly, the song at the climax beautifully sums up the struggles, culminating in a satisfying winning moment.

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One of the biggest features of a sports movie is its anthem or title track. It gives the soul to the underdog sports story. But the title track ‘Team India hai hum’ felt like a rather mundane one, lacking the magic of AR Rehman.

7. The ‘One’ speech

The Dressing Room Speech!!!! This piece of speech delivered by the coach just before the most crucial match is probably the most enthralling part of any sports drama. Ajay Devgn nails it with the intricately designed “Ek” speech, reflecting the power of a team acting as one towards one goal.

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But this obsession with having a number in the speech and repeating it continuously is bound to draw comparisons to the famous “Sattar minute” speech in “Chak De India”.

8. Wasted the character of Tulsidas Balaram

The character of Tulsidas probably had the best introduction scene, dribbling in the streets of Secunderabad and mixing water in his tea. His dialogue “Chai biscuit kha ke poora din khel sakta hu” set the tone for a promising character arc. 

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But it soon vanished as Balaram was hardly seen having any major impact in any scenes and ultimately had a forgettable presence after that.

Having discussed the several flaws in the movie, I still feel that this movie is a great attempt at telling the much-needed forgotten story of our glorious times in football when we were called ‘the Brazil of Asia’. It’s a really well-made movie with stunning visuals and the emotions hit the right chords. It’s high time we told stories of the tales of our sporting heroes beyond cricket, who fought against all odds to make us proud. 

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