Watch Maidaan for the romance of Indian football

Maidaan Poster
Maidaan Poster (PC: Maidaan Team)

A movie on Indian football. Don’t scoff. Agreed, Indian football is not doing well today and carping critics will take less than a minute to use social media platforms to lampoon players and the chief coach. Heartless or insensitive, the choice of words for such comments is minus thought. 

This is Eid time, when everyone celebrates. What better time than this for the devout to watch a movie, Maidaan, on Syed Abdul Rahim saab, a coach who brought glory to India long before social media was even thought of. The Hyderabadi legend was all but forgotten and Maidaan will revive his legacy.

Yes, there was media and there were fans to capture the romance of Indian football in an era where Dadagiri was the theme. After all, romantics can never forget how Indian football was blessed to have PK da and Chuni da. This generation may need Google and other search engines to look up these names. 

Legends. That word sums them up.

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Frankly speaking, it is a common belief that sports movies are for a select audience. But that does not hold water. We watched Chak De! nearly two decades ago because of the emotions which Shah Rukh Khan stirred as the [celluloid] coach of the Indian women’s hockey team. He made many cry. Fans and critics called the Indian women’s team’s entry into the Tokyo Olympic Games semi-finals as a Chak De moment. That term has come to be a label.

Many cricket-based movies have been produced, from Sachin Tendulkar to Kapil’s Devils winning the 1983 Prudential Cup, from MS Dhoni to Mohammed Azharuddin. It is passion that seems to have prompted Boney Kapoor to produce Maidaan. Ajay Devgn in the lead role has worked hard. It’s not easy to try and recreate moments from the 1950s. At least, for the other movies, there was a baseline and reference. It must have been hard for rapper Chaitnya Sharma as well to become PK Banerjee.

To make a deep foray into Indian football and come up with Maidaan is thought-provoking. Movie critics are a very hard lot, just like professional sports writers. Their job is to be critical. They will pick on nuances and give their own verdict and even rate on a scale of 1 to 10. Do not go to watch Maidaan on account of ratings from critics, which will always have a certain slant or bias.

I grew up watching movies from the Rajesh Khanna era to the Amitabh Bachchan generation. Then the shift to SRK, now the biggest fan of KKR – Kolkata Knight Riders – in the IPL. For me, Maidaan is about how this generation of sports fans need to be transported back to the times of coach Rahim saab and two greats I have met – PK and Chuni Goswami. 

Maidaan Movie Poster
Maidaan Movie Poster (PC: Team Maidaan)

To have lived in Delhi and worked in an office a short walk from the Ambedkar Stadium has been a blessing. Legends like PK da and Chuni da would come for blue-riband football events like the Durand Cup and DCM Cup. These two dramatis personae and Rahim saab transported me back to old conversations on Indian football in the ’60s, where glory came in the 1962 Asian Games.

No, I never met Rahim saab. But I have read stories in print, including one by learned writer N Ganesan in Sport and Pastime magazine, and had conversations with football romantics about the cerebral coach. For Rahim, football was a nasha (passion).  It was so emotional to read about Rahim never allowing players any form of addiction, despite being a smoker himself. 

This generation of Indian football fans that love Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo can wax eloquent on European football, even football in Saudi Arabia and more. For the youngsters, including my own daughter – who played Junior Nationals for Delhi – Maidaan is a great throwback.

It could be well asked why a movie on football has hit the screens after so many decades. The fact is, romance and emotions live forever. Be it the real-life situation of a break-up, divorce or a relationship gone wrong, one must remember the good moments. Maidaan, as a movie, deserves applause for bringing back emotions, in a torrent. 

Indian football’s heroes need to be recalled and celebrated. It’s never too late.

Also Read: A heartfelt and significant Bollywood first on Indian Football