Maidaan ‘maar liya’! Film scores a big win!

Ajay Devgn as Syed Abdul Rahim in Maidaan. Photo: Universal Communications 

And that’s just a tepid description—irrespective of the quality and fate of Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, this week’s co-release, this one’s gonna steal the show— Maidaan maar liya!

For starters, this is a rare 3-hour (181 minutes!) movie wherein not a boring moment is there. The dialogues (mainly Ritesh Shah with Siddharth Mago) sparkle with the right mix of realism, patriotic fervor and emotionally-rousing quality. Maidaan is also a rare film written by multiple writers (eight!) where the saying ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth!’ emphatically does not apply! The special highs in the film include the politics that Rahim repeatedly faces, the way he triumphs over most of them, his affectionate moments with wife (Priyamani) and son (Rishabh Joshi) and his intimate conversations with his players!

Rather, this true story is cooked to perfection with right mix of facts and dramatization (one can guess at thelatter part but it’s at best guesswork!). Director (and co-writer) Amit Ravindernath Sharma, the genius behind the epic Badhaai Ho! (2018) spins yet another quasi-masterpiece that will go on to rank among the finest sports dramas, best biopics and greatest sports biopics in Hindi cinema.

The (true) story is of Syed Abdul Rahim, the passionate football coach, whose die-hard ardor to make India a prominent player in the sport of football leads to multiple glories for our country and international platforms. It is a detailed and intricate look at what made Rahim the legend he still is, especially in the eyes of his team members, some of whom are still alive and are featured heartwarmingly in the end.

VFX is used judiciously in the film, as also the inter-cuts with black-and-white shots of actual matches. Not just the research but the scripting shows a lot of Herculean efforts, and the perfect mix of Rahim’s professional ups and downs and his personal joys and woes (like his illness) is indeed remarkable. The random team that Rahim assembled from all over the country comprise of a cast of newcomers who are excellent actors and have been clearly trained in the sport too!

Above all, while Tushar Kanti Ray has done the exceptional camerawork, extra hosannas are due to Fyodor Lyass for the sports cinematography, and the last 30 minutes are a spectacle of high caliber. In general too, the sports sequences and their preludes and aftermath are superbly conceived, shot and edited.

Again, the editing by Dev Rao Jadhav is crisp, but it is the Sports editing by Shahnawaz Mosani that carries the top honours. All these qualities amplify the tensions, especially in the crackerjack semi-finale between Japan and India and finale between Korea and India.

The background score by A.R. Rahman is fantastic overall, but in the song department, only Rahman’s Team India hai hum is memorable. Khyatee Mohan Kanchan’s production design is top-class. Sharma’s direction is fabulous indeed and obviously that includes impeccable (and more) performances.

Again, the actors who play the team are all outstanding, and still, special marks go to Madhur Mittal as Fortunato Franco, Chaitanya Sharma as P.K. Banerjee, Tejas Ravishankar as Peter Thangaraj, Davinder Gill as Jarnail Singh, Amartya Ray as Chuni Goswami and Sushant Waydande as Tulsidas Balaram, with Sharma and Ray towering even among them!

Rishabh Joshi (Rahim’s son Hakim), Vijay Maurya and Abhilash Thapliyal (as the Indian commentators) and Ishtiyak Khan as Rahim’s assistant coach also deliver excellent performances, as also the lady who plays Rahim’s mother.

The villainous Roy Chowdhury (Gajraj Rao) and Subhankar (Rudranil Ghosh) are a shade overdone but the actors put in fine essays. Baharul Islam as Federation head Anjan also impresses in a straight and emotional role, as does the actor who plays the new coach but supports Rahim for the position after a previous interaction with him.

But the twin towers in the film, apart from Sharma and Ray as mentioned above, are Ajay Devgn as Rahim and Priyamani as Rahim’s note-perfect and no-nonsense wife, Runa, whose weakness is the English language that she is trying hard to learn! In every sequence, romantic, humorous or poignant, this wonder talent is exceptional indeed.

As for Ajay, this film adds to his humongous list of magnificent portrayals (a long one already!) and ranks very tall among them. Truly, like many other colleagues, I feel that he qualifies for a National award this time, no less. Ajay seems to have internalized Rahim as much as he did his characters in Zakham, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Bhoot, the Drishyam franchise and also his best comic work. I loved his ardent eyes when he is temporarily destabilized by dirty politics, his sequence with his son on the terrace, and his expressions when his wife goads him to return to football. His scene in the washroom where he futilely tries to hide his illness from his team, his intense first meeting with Roy Chowdhury, the entire sequence in which he asks for his post as a coach back—I could go on and on…

In short, this is a film that should be missed only at one’s peril. It has everything that comprises must-watch memorable cinema.

Zee Studios, Bayview Projects & Fresh Lime Films’ Maidaan  Produced by: Boney Kapoor & Zee Studios  Directed by: Amit Ravindernath Sharma Written by: Saiwyn Quadras, Akash Chawla, Arunava Joy Sengupta, Aman Rai, Atul Shahi, Amit Ravindernath Sharma, Ritesh Shah & Siddhant Mago Music: A.R. Rahman  Starring; Ajay Devgn, Priyamani, Gajraj Rao, Rudranil Ghosh, Madhur Mittal, Chaitanya Sharma, Tejas Ravishankar, Davinder Gill, Amartya Ray, Sushant Waydande, Manandeep Singh, Vishnu G. Varrier, Raphael Jose, Jayanth V., Aaman Munshi, Sai Kishore, Amandeep Thakur, Tanmay Bhattacharjee, Arko Das, Prajwal Maski, Rishabh Joshi, Vijay Maurya,  Abhilash Thapliyal & others



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