Maidaan Review: Can One Hour Save This Sports Drama?


In 2007, when Shimit Amin’s “Chak De India” hit theaters, it felt like the stadium came alive on the big screen for the first time for me (I missed watching “Lagaan” in theaters). There was something enchanting about Shah Rukh Khan’s movie that had everyone cheering for every goal, even though we all knew India would win. I bring up “Chak De” while talking about Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s “Maidaan” because the sports scenes in this 3-hour film are so captivating. After “Chak De India,” I felt like I was in the stands during the last hour of this Ajay Devgn movie.

“Maidaan” follows the journey of the iconic Indian Football team coach, Mr. Syed Abdul Rahim, also known as SA Rahim. The movie begins with India’s struggles in the Olympics, playing barefoot against big teams in big stadiums. “Maidaan” shows Rahim’s quest to build a world-class Indian football team and the obstacles he faced to achieve his dream.

Now, let’s be clear—it’s not a flawless film, and overall, I wouldn’t rank it anywhere close to “Chak De.” The reason for that is the weak writing in the off-field drama part of the movie. This Syed Abdul Rahim biopic has two main layers: the game itself and how Rahim built the team, and the bureaucratic hurdles and ego politics he had to navigate. In “Chak De,” the administrators were portrayed as arrogant. Here, they feel more like exaggerated characters, and the drama can be overly melodramatic. The first two hours of the movie have a generic feel to them.

When you look at the credits, you’ll notice there are dedicated people for the sports scenes’ cinematography and editing. The execution of these scenes is brilliant. It’s not just the talent of the cinematographer and editor—watching the matches in this film, you’ll see how carefully each moment is choreographed. From wide-angle close-ups to shots that reveal the team’s gameplay, Amit Sharma showcases the team’s prowess spectacularly. The editing allows us to savor each move, whether it’s a save, a tackle, or an agile pass. The last hour of the movie, focused on the Jakarta Asian Games, is beautifully packaged, making the earlier parts feel lacking.

The music enhances the emotions wonderfully, and the production design, aided by visual effects, feels authentic. Ajay Devgn, as Syed Abdul Rahim, brings his typical grace and commanding presence to the role of the inspirational leader. Gajraj Rao’s character feels like a deliberate addition, a villain to give the hero those impactful lines. His character comes off a bit loud, and the makeup on his forehead isn’t entirely convincing. Rudranil Ghosh plays Shubhankar, another character that feels a bit exaggerated. However, the actors portraying the team members look the part, and their dedication to the sports scenes is commendable. Priyamani, as Rahim’s supportive wife, delivers a convincing performance.

Maidaan Trailer

“Maidaan” is two hours of average cinema followed by one hour of exhilarating sports drama. The final hour of football is so gripping that you’ll end the movie on an emotional high, perhaps willing to overlook the flaws in the off-field drama. “Maidaan” has definitely set a new standard for portraying sports in Indian cinema.

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