“Maidaan: A Masterpiece Worthy Of Our Collective Love & Respect” – A Subhash K Jha Review

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Starring Ajay Devgn, Priyamani
Directed by Amit Sharma

With Maidaan, Amit Ravinder Sharma proves Badhaai Ho was no fluke. A small film with a big heart, Badhaai Ho was a trendsetter. Maidaan is an even braver work of art, more deserving of our collective reverence. It dives into the life of a man Syed Abdul Rahim whose dedication and passion and loyalty toward football brought India two gold medals in the 1951 Asian Games and 1962 Asian Games.

It is so profoundly gratifying to see our cinema celebrating a real hero rather than scummy gangsters and politicians who have contributed nothing to our nation’s stature. Maidaan brings us vivid glimpses into the life of Syed Abdul Rahim. Ajay Devgan’s quietly intense performance enriches the supple storytelling manifold.

Hardly any other film in any Indian language in recent times has exercised such a steep reformative impulse on the audience. Amit Sharma, whose wonderful Badhaai Ho had instantly placed him among the foremost directorial voices of the post-Bhansali generation, has achieved an unprecedented scale of expertise, weaving a borderline predictable story of the underdogs’ victory, into a peerless work of art which never loses its equipoise even during moments of exacerbated drama.

The sheer task of putting so many international football matches on the screen with authentic players from all across the world, boggles the mind. The Indian footballers are not just football players, they are also actors, and they actually resemble the original players! I won’t insult the footballer-actors by singling any of them out. Suffice to say that you forget them as individuals and watch them as a team. Or as Rahim Saab puts it, not ‘Ek’ but a team.

How did Amit Sharma do it and more importantly, how did he manage to pull it off with such seamless expertise? Like the conductor of an unrehearsed orchestra, Amit gives the characters ample room to grow of their own will, organically from the real-life space.

The direction is remarkably accommodating , sliding into sticky situations silently rather than taking noisy control of them. A large amount of the credit for making Maidaan the masterpiece that it is, goes to its lead. Ajay Devgan, as the legendary football coach, Syed Abdul Rahim – Rahim Saab to one and all including his quietly supportive wife played by the unerringly lovely Priyamani – defines that reined-in energy which makes a successful sportsman a capable teacher.

Devgan’s Rahim is a footballer who is all for reform. He has the patience to wait it out.And even when the odds are heavily weighed against him, this man won’t buckle under. Devgan plays the wise stubborn coach with a casual grace and determination. Devgan is better as Syed Abdul Rahim than he was as Bhagat Singh. And that’s saying a lot!

Priyamani makes a deep impression in a minuscule role. But Gajraj Rao’s villainous machinations to bring Rahim Saab down , appear somewhat caricatural. This seems to be the only flaw in an otherwise-fine fabric.

Maidaan is everything that the cinematic experience should be but seldom is: exhilarating, gladdening and motivating. Most important of all, you come away from the film a slightly different person; perhaps a little more kind, tolerant, generous, and compassionate than before.

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