wogma rating: Watch but no rush (?)

quick review:

A quiet, calm film with rushes that a football match can give to fans. Football enthusiast or not, the real-life story makes you clap for its hero. Watch it for the coach of the Indian football team of the 50s and early 60s, S A Rahim.

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Director: Amit Sharma
Running time: 180 minutes
Genres: Social, Sports
More Movie Info

Even before it was put on paper, Maidaan had the remarkable true-life story on its side. Its hero’s fortitude defies what you believe a human being can do. To my simple mind, just grappling and tackling bureaucracy is a lifetime’s worth of work done. Syed Abdul Rahim had to deal with the problems of a nation that had regions forged together less than a decade ago—financial, political. And it was topped off by his health issues.

Is it in the nature of coach-speeches to get better as the team reaches higher levels in tournaments?

He took the Indian football team from times when the players weren’t given shoes, through when they wore inappropriate, sole-and-soul-crushing ones, to the finals of the Asia Cup. He dealt with forces that didn’t of themselves as a part of the country but had their own warped motivations and agenda.

But S A Rahim’s drive was greater. Greater than his failing health. And this is where Maidaan comes in. It balances the football and Rahim’s physical condition to create pathos that seems only natural. To the extent that the film seems as much an ‘Anti-smoking’ public service announcement as it is an inspirational story. I’m not sure, though, if the injurious effects of smoking on health were so widely known in India in the late-1950s.

In any case, if there is one thing that will remain with me from Maidaan, it is the visual of Ajay Devgn coughing his lungs out. There is this one scene when he enacts a coughing bout, it felt like my insides were churning out. This happened because the makers chose to give this aspect of S A Rahim’s life so much space and screen time. And of course, Ajay Devgn did full justice to it—one of his best performances. While the poker face with a twitch of an eye is his usual, the change in dialogue delivery before and after his health issues surface comes across as effortless.

He is supported well by Priyamani in her short role. But the same cannot be said about the other cast. Especially, Gajraj Rao, his stiff upper lip looked like too much of a put on making his character more comical than villainous. The other members of the football federation seemed like caricatures too. None of the team members either leave anything memorable except maybe their introduction.

Now, that might make you think that Maidaan is only about S A Rahim’s smoking, let me reassure you, the football bits play out well too. I haven’t seen too much football, and just know some of the basics. Yet the football bits in the film are easy to follow. And more importantly, they are engaging.

My heart thumped with the beat in the background. I enjoyed the sound of the kicks and the splashes. The cinematography too goes hand in hand, keeping up with the beat. I feel like calling some of the camerawork, lyrical visuals. The player Balram’s introduction in Secunderabad comes to mind immediately. This action contrasts well with the quieter, calmer frames. As if they are in a jugalbandi, an interplay, feeding off of each other. A lot of its time is used to just ‘be’.

The football bits in the film are easy to follow, even for a non-believer. And more importantly, they are engaging.

On the flip side, that also means the players are all pretty much left at that, their introductions. We don’t know too much about them. While I understand the focus is solely on the coach, it did make me wonder if each player’s life would make for a good story too. That’s not this movie though.

This one doesn’t have some of the other typical sports drama tropes either. For instance, the training montage is saved for much later rather than being a part of the set-up. This one caught me by surprise—the interval drops in at the 1-hour mark in this 3-hour film. Then, the individual versus team is a passing reference rather than one of the main themes. Maybe that is how it was in real life.

In general, that era seemed to be a simpler time. The bureaucracy seemed painful but also easy to get around. Just a show of hands did the trick. The makers also subtly hint at the fissures in the nation along regional lines. The football federation seemed to be composed of Bengalis. And they seemed to protest the inclusion of people from other regions, but the struggle was reasonably easily overcome.

If this was the case indeed, a lot of the drama is out of the picture. Then this sports drama had to rely on how it tells the story, since the what is taken care of. Now, S A Rahim seems like a man of few words. And when he speaks, whether it is with his wife, his son, his federation, or his team, it is pithy and hence entertaining.

Of course, it is a sports film, so it has to have that one big speech. That one is ‘okay only’. Gave me enough time to wonder why coaches save their best speeches for the finals of tournaments. Or is it in the nature of coach-speeches to get better as the team reaches higher levels in tournaments?

So yeah, some tropes stay. And if a movie has to be watched for its protagonist and lead actor, this is certainly one. If not in the theatres because it is a long sit, when it’s out on OTT works too. Meanwhile, there are these little touches that make it worth the three hours you spend on it too—the use of the local script when a city’s name flashes on screen, the remark that 60 years ago was the pinnacle of Indian football, the adorable closing sequence.

- meeta, a part of the audience

30 reviewers(?) - 17 yays 10 so-so 3 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, Bolly Spice : ...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.... full review

Thumbs up, by Simran Singh, DNA : ...The director and cinematographer Tushar Kanti Ray deserve a lot of credit for showing the football games without any super slo-mo shots or overly dramatic scenes. AR Rahman then adds to the magic by providing an apt soundtrack and background score that syncs with the film. The one drawback I found was the drop in pace in the second half. Maidaan may not be Lagaan or Chak De India, but it will be remembered as one of the best sports dramas in India in recent times, and just for managing this, director Amit Sharma deserves praise.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...All-in-all, director Amit Ravindernath Sharma has given us a riveting sports drama. Watch it to see the recreation of the golden period of Indian football and for the acting masterclass displayed by Ajay Devgn.... full review

Thumbs up, by Murtuza Iqbal, Filmi Beat : ...Overall, Maidaan is a entertaining sports drama, but keep patience as the film takes a bit time to come into its element. By the way, this one is clearly a must-watch for football lovers, and Ajay Devgn and Rahman fans.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nitin Jain, : ...'Maidaan, directed by Amit Ravindernath Sharma, manages to stand out among other sports films due to its engaging storytelling and emotional depth.... full review

Thumbs up, by Monika Rawal Kukreja, Hindustan Times : ...Maidaan does get melodramatic at places it could have avoided, but what's a sports film without a bit of a drama on the field and off it, too. Watch this film on the big screen to feel the adrenaline rush, enjoy some thrilling football and laud a coach who was as good as his team.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sana Farzeen, india today : ...'Maidaan' is not only a treat for football enthusiasts but also quite a delight for movie lovers. It immortalises the unsung hero, after whom India never qualified for the Olympics. Rahim, in one scene, says 'Kismat haathon se nahi, pairon se likhi jaati hai (destiny is written by foot, not hands)'. While it was the truth back then, you realise in reality, luck favours the brave, and SA Rahim was truly Indian football's Braveheart.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sakshi Verma, India TV : ...There's not much to criticise when you have A.R. Rahman sitting on the composer's chair. Richa Sharma's 'Mirza' song is deep, rightly timed, and beautifully written. Manoj Muntashir could be pardoned for Adipurush's poor writing after this one. Another banger from the film, 'Team India Hain Hum' gives the perfect pace to the film. Ranga Ranga is fine but the Maidaan Anthem that too in Rahman's voice is a winning goal from the makers. The climax scene gets elevated due to the song and Ajay Devgn's presence. However, the background scores could have been better.... full review

Thumbs up, by Husain Rizvi, Khaleej Times : ...For a film that does not shy away from dramatisation, there are no gut-wrenching speeches here. And yet, Maidaan, releasing on April 10 in the UAE, with its run-time of three hours, is fairly watchable because it sheds light on a largely forgotten chapter in India’s sports history. A time when Team India struck gold. Literally!... full review

Thumbs up, by "Pooja Darade ", koimoi : ...Overall, if you get past the slow-paced first half and some unnecessary scenes, Maidaan is an exciting sports drama. It ignites the sporting fervour within you as you cheer for Team India on the big screen. It’s important for the audience to know the story of Syed Abdul Rahim, because of whom India won at the Asian Games.... full review

Thumbs up, by "kamna Arora ", News N9ne : ...“Ajay Devgn shines in a role that only an actor of calibre could’ve essayed with flourish. He’s the soul of Maidaan. Gajraj Rao is top notch, while Rudranil Ghosh is superb," Taran Adarsh wrote.... full review

Thumbs up, by Dishya Sharma, : ...Bottomline: Maidaan deserves to be watched. The film brings back emotions that we once felt while watching Chak De! India. I assure you, you won’t leave the theatre without at least hooting once.... full review

Thumbs up, by Prateek Sur, Outlook India : ...‘Maidaan’ goes beyond the traditional sports drama genre by delving into the protagonists’ inner journeys as well as their achievements on the field. The movie delves into the numerous sacrifices made by the players and the coach especially, emphasising the human element behind the desire of excellence. Ajay Devgn’s performance stands out, as it’s a welcome change to see him move away from his bulging-biceped action avatar. The story is compelling and the background score just leaves you feeling satiated to the core. The trailers may have suggested that it was just another copy of Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Chak De India’, but ‘Maidaan’ makes a mark on its own. Overall it’s a Breezy Repeatable Watch. I am going with 4 stars.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rashil Jogani, Pinkvilla : ...Maidaan is a work of passion, that can only be envisioned by someone who is really passionate to tell the underdog story of the Indian National Football Team. It succeeds in making the audience relive the Golden Age of Indian Football. There are a few hiccups through the film but you take home a very fulfilling feeling as the credits roll.... full review

Thumbs up, by Pratikshya Mishra, The Quint : ...Maidaan is, however, a film about the man behind this success. The film intercuts between Rahim’s professional and personal journey, often highlighting how the two merged into each other. The scenes between a brooding Rahim and his supportive wife Runa (Priyamani) would bring a smile to anyone’s face. The chemistry they share in their domesticity is portrayed beautifully by both the actors.... full review

Thumbs up, by Dhaval Roy, Times of India : ...Maidaan is a must-watch on the big screen for the thrilling experience and outstanding storytelling. It truly emulates the dialogue in the movie, ‘Kismat haathon se nahi, paeron se likhi jaati hai,’ as the team puts its best foot forward with the stellar outing!... full review

So-So, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...Maidaan scores in stoppage time, but it isn’t enough to salvage the scoreline. A thrilling finish doesn’t always amount to victory. Sometimes, it’s just a slimmer margin of defeat.... full review

So-So, by Vinamra Mathur, FirstPost : ...When the Indian football team suffers an embarrassing loss, he says- ‘Jab Ghar Ki Neev Kamzor Ho To Chath Badalne Ka Kya Fayda.’ The actor has made a career out of delivering delicious dialogues with all his nonchalance. And in the case of this film, Sharma and Shah opt for a restrained approach to tell a story filled with pathos and glory.... full review

So-So, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Free Press Journal : ...Ajay is a great performer and doesn’t need any validation, and Maidaan is just another testament to it. He as Syed Abdul Rahim is impactful. Priyamani plays his wife, who is a driving force in his life and career and is watchable. Gajraj Rao plays the part of an arrogant sports journalist well enough. Rest of the actors play their parts aptly.... full review

So-So, by Baradwaj Rangan, : ...Maidaan should have been much better, but at least on the big screen, it has its moments. Read more at: full review

So-So, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Overall, ‘Maidaan’ is not without its flaws, but this underdog story makes you want to clap and cheer, and wipe away a proud tear.... full review

So-So, by "Shreyas Pande ", indian express : ...Eventually, 'Maidaan' doesn’t use the inherent excitement of sports to elevate its storytelling. Rather, it depends too much on its sentimental values. So, when the whistle blows and the match begins, it is the storytelling that meets with a deadly tackle. No hands are raised; no efforts are taken for its recuperation. Yellow card to you, the audience, for not keeping your expectations in check.... full review

So-So, by Sameer Ahire, Movie Talkies : ...So, as a whole, Maidaan should still be a one-time watch for people who aren’t familiar with Hollywood and foreign-language sports dramas because it has all the Indian masala you expect from a typical mainstream film. Sharma missed an opportunity to create a cinematic classic, though, and sadly, we don’t have many Syed Abdul Rahims in India to get such stories again and again.... full review

So-So, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...Syed Abdul Rahim himself needed a more rounded portrait, one that would include his background, his understanding of the beautiful game, and the personal belief system with which he infected the players. Maidaan gives some sense of Rahim’s doggedness, but the man himself remains only partly formed on the football field and elusive beyond it.... full review

Thumbs down, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Rahim, being the man he is, takes it all on the chin. The lead actor gets into the skin of the character without breaking a sweat. But the film is seldom that firm-footed. Maidaan tells an overlong, peppered-with-fiction narrative that struggles to balance the real and essential with its unabashed goal of working the audience up into a frenzy.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sonal Pandya, Times Now :'s the camerawork and editing in the final 3o minutes that really impresses as it makes viewers feel we are right on the field alongside India. Combined with composer AR Rahman's Jaane Do hits you right in the feels. The final credits pay tribute to the real men behind Indian football's heyday and the stats shown will make one realize the real impact of Rahim's contribution to the sport.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Maidaan is its truest when the real faces behind that historical win surface in their old glory. Too bad it's the end of what could have been a beginning.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

1 readers - 1 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Raj : Good film to remember glory of Indian Football

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: None
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: The struggle of a football coach
  • General Look and Feel: Rustic, sepia, simple and gorgeous in some of the fast-moving scenes.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Maidaan - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Background Score:
Music Director:
Running time:
180 minutes

Comments (1)

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Dear Meetu,
Never knew the glory of "Indian football"- this happened much before I was born. Wonderful to live those moments on screen. Seconded ditto all points in your review. Just wanted a shorter run-time.

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