Finally, the Maidaan trailer launch heralds arrival of film

The Maidaan team at the trailer launch. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar 

The true story of Syed Abdul Rahim, the coach who between 1952 and 1962 revolutionized the course and history of Indian football and placed it on the world’s map is what Maidaan is all about.

Maidaan, his biopic, has now been in the making for years, and after several announcements in release dates, will finally hit screens on April 11. The trailer launch was held some days ago and producers Boney Kapoor, Arunava Joy Sengupta and Akash Chawla (Zee Studios are co-producers), director Amit Ravindernath Sharma, actors Ajay Devgn and Priyamani and the 11 actors who play the Indian team were all present.

Boney Kapoor, in trademark humorous style, reminisced about his childhood days in Mumbai’s central suburb of Chembur and how they played football then barefoot. He stated that later on, he watched how the sport lost out in popularityin  India to cricket and hockey and how those games acted as a barrier to the progress of football.

Self-deprecatingly expressing gratitude to each and every unit member from the spotboys (who dedicatedly served water and tea to a 600-plus unit shooting mainly in the sun) to his co-producers Arunava, Akash and Zee Studios, Kapoor termed himself only as a kind of facilitator to the project. He remembered thinking that the film needed the authenticity of an actual footballer to helm, and thus he chose Amit Ravindernath Sharma (of Badhaai Ho) fame, as he had played football, and who was like a son to him since the time Sharma had directed his home production, Tevar in 2015, featuring Arjun Kapoor, who, he quipped, was like a ‘step-son’ while Sharma was a son!

“This man, who is India’s biggest ad filmmaker, gave his very life for my film’s excellent result!” he raved. “For over 4 years, through Covid when our sets were remaining barren, we have only lived this film. The way the actors playing the team struggled, they were trained like real footballers and can play at matches now!”

Rahim, he informed, was the man who got shoes done for the Indian team, as footballers played barefoot. “In India, the matches were 70 minutes long, but on the international front, they are of 90 minutes duration.”

Giving examples about the meticulous passion with which this biopic was made, Kapoor revealed that for the shoots of the international matches, mixed nationalities were needed as live viewers, and after research, this was found to be possible only if the shooting was done in Bangkok. But the same bus was needed to show the athlete’s vehicle and so it was actually taken there!

Ajay Devgn, who plays the title-role, called the film an “emotional drama with layers and not only a sports film. Imagine, I knew nothing of Syed Abdul Rahim before Boney-sir approached me for the film!” he said.

Director Sharma revealed that they we actually hunted all over the country for those who could play as well as look like the real footballers in those times and thanked the casting agency, Anti-Casting, headed by Vaibhav. “We took nearly a year to fix good actors who could also be trained to play well!” he said. He also stated that he had to be mentally taken out of Badhaai Ho after signing the film!

The team got considerable help from disciples of Rahim and ace players like Tulsidas Balram, a paralyzed Banerjee and Rahim’s son Hakim. Another Rahim’s devotee, Franco, even offered the team his medal as they were making a film on his icon. After the Maidaan team politely declined, he insisted on presenting them the jacket he wore.

Gajraj Rao, who plays one of the antagonists, raved about Kapoor and cryptically stated that he was one of the most generous producers. The team, he said, worked with exemplary passion and never just to finish the day’s work.

Leading lady Priyamani confessed to being initially intimidated by Ajay but found him the nicest co-star to work with, while Rudronil Ghosh, the other reel anatagonist, hoped that people would hate him after watching the film. That will be his award, he said!




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