‘Chak De’ halo lights up ‘Maidaan’ : The Tribune India

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‘Chak De’ halo lights up ‘Maidaan’

‘Chak De’  halo  lights up ‘Maidaan’

The movie’s magnetising moments come when Ajay Devgn is on the screen.

Johnson Thomas

What ‘Chak De India’ was to hockey, ‘Maidaan’ is to football. Both films venerate those challenging halcyon days when Indian team sport came into its own at the Asian level.

‘Maidaan’ follows coach Syed Abdul Rahim’s efforts to overcome bureaucratic meddling and make Indian football great. The period depicted here is from 1952-62 — what one would call the last decade of great Indian football where the team was never considered a pushover even on the world stage.

Though ‘Chak De’ largely remained rooted in reality, ‘Maidaan’ floats on trivial fabrications at times.

Freshly appointed India coach Rahim (Devgn) is shown scouring the country for potential footballers, building a team from scratch, aiding the team in making a strong statement at the Olympic Games and inevitably fighting off a committee with a majority of those who want him out. While these are all familiar beats, it becomes interesting mainly because of the on-field efforts and some heavy-duty drama that involves Rahim’s personal life and health issues. There’s not much nuance here, however. It’s pretty straightforward and leans towards grandstanding.

Like all sports biopics, this one too concentrates on eking out a victory in the final moments. Other than mention of the original players of the winning team, date accuracies and the crowning victory at the Asian Games, there’s not much in terms of facts here. The intermittent bits and pieces attached to the story are fictional and follow a set pattern that we’ve seen in Bollywood sports bio-dramas.

The runtime, at over three hours, is long but never boring. ‘Badhai Ho’ director Amit Ravindernath Sharma manages to throw in some riveting football moments. The on-field action is also largely focused on footwork, so much so that it is unrecognisable as that of any particular player. It’s only from the commentary that we understand that a particular player may have been intstrumental.

The script, credited to several writers, is unable to go beyond the obvious. There’s also very little of interest beyond the sporting action and Rahim’s tryst with ill-health. The dramatic moments are rather hackneyed and don’t pass muster.

Rahim’s wife Saira (a distinctive Priyamani), his footballer-son Hakim, PK Banerjee (Chaitanya Sharma), Chuni Goswami (Amartya Ray), Jarnail Singh (Davinder Gill), Tulsidas Balaram (Sushant Waydande) and Peter Thangaraj (Tejas Ravishankar) jostle for space in a film that is concentrated around Rahim — but without fleshing out either his footballing strategies or gameplan against more successful teams. The lack of research here is a little galling.

The sporting action overall is interesting. It gets exciting for a bit but is never totally rousing. The off-field drama at home and in the boardrooms is what make the experience lilt towards fatigue. The team selection and matches at the Olympics appear to be window dressing for what is to come later.

The unnecessary fiction of a sports journalist having the impunity to scheme against Rahim’s appointment is rather vaccuous as an integral plot point. Gajraj Rao’s performance as a man on that mission, therefore, comes across as caricaturish and facile.

The movie’s magnetising moments come when Devgn is on the screen. He exhibits phenomenal restraint in bringing Rahim to life. Thankfully, he is on screen for most of the runtime and dominates every moment.

His eloquent eyes, shimmering with unshed tears of hurt and anger, his steadfast body language and emotive ability make this movie a fairly entrancing experience.

#Football #Hockey

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