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Maidaan director Amit Sharma: ‘Period films are always very difficult’

Maidaan stars Ajay Devgn as football coach Syed Abdul Rahim

Soujannya Das Calcutta Published 17.04.24, 05:06 PM
Ajay Devgn in the sports period drama Maidaan.

Ajay Devgn in the sports period drama Maidaan. Instagram

Director Amit Sharma talks about the challenges he took in making Maidaan, the sports period drama on football coach Syed Abdul Rahim, starring Ajay Devgn.

What made you want to make a film on Syed Abdul Rahim?


Amit Sharma: I had no idea about Syed Abdul Rahim. One day Boney Kapoor called me and told me about the idea of making a film on Rahim Saab. When I heard it, I couldn’t believe it was a true story. Nobody knew the story of Rahim Saab, his team, and the golden time of football. At that very moment, I agreed to make the film.

What kind of research did the film need?

Amit Sharma: A lot of research went behind it. I went to the Wikipedia page and wrote Syed Abdul Rahim and there was Jarnail Singh’s picture instead of his picture. There was no trace of him. I wanted to meet the players who were in his team: PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, Arun Ghosh, Tulsidas Balaram, his son Mr. Hakim, and Fortunato Franko.

I flew to Kolkata to meet PK Banerjee and the others and had beautiful conversations with him. I met Fortunato Franko in Goa and gathered a lot of information from him. I wanted to know what kind of a person he was. His son gave a lot of information about the games he used to be a part of, like the Olympics and Asian games. By

I had no idea of the era. Look and feel were also part of the research. I asked Mr Franko to show me the medal. He gave me the medal and said, ‘This is yours’. He said that I was making a film on his god and it was his contribution. The players were the biggest source we had.

You have shot the film in Kolkata and Chandernagore. What was the experience like?

Amit Sharma: I love Calcutta! The fun I have shooting here is something I don’t get anywhere else. It was easy to create an era over here because Calcutta still has those old buildings. They have kept it so well. I love the people and food in Calcutta. I love Sorshe Ilish, Chingri, Murighonto, Chochchori, and Nolen Gurer Rosogolla.

The best part was that our day used to start at three in the morning. I used to shoot early in the morning and by four in the evening, the shoot would get over. By 10pm we were in bed. I have been shooting in Calcutta for so many years. I am well aware of most of the locations. I understand the language. I wanted to create a character with the language.

What made you cast Ajay Devgn? Was he involved at the script level?

Amit Sharma: He is a director’s actor. I asked him one day, ‘Don’t you feel like saying roll camera action since you are a director yourself?’ He said he was so satisfied with everything that he was learning and enjoying the shooting process. He has given whatever I have asked for.

I remember meeting him and narrating the script. He was already on board as the principal discussion was done by Boney Kapoor. It was a one-hour-50-minute narration. After that, he said, ‘You tell me what I need to do, I am there.’

I asked him to stop exercising because this character is not a bodybuilder. Rahim Saab was a very simple man. I wanted him to wear a certain kind of costume. He never wanted to modify the look. That’s the dedication of an actor. What more do you need as a director?

What are the challenges of making a sports drama?

Amit Sharma: Shooting football was the biggest challenge. On a football pitch, 20 people run after the same ball. We used many devices and about 10-12 cameras daily. We created a pitch because we were not getting permission to shoot in a stadium. We maintained our shooting pitch for about three-and-a-half years. In between we went through Covid. Many players were coming from abroad. Lockdowns would be lifted but no flights would start. We had to wait. It was quite a difficult task to finish shooting. It was challenging as well as satisfying.

Maidaan is set in the 1952-1962 era. How difficult was it to design the whole film?

Amit Sharma: Period films are always very difficult. Since it is a true story and I had a responsibility, I couldn’t fake anything. Every car used in the film was built before 1962. We have gone into the smallest detail in the film. The dialogue and screenplay were difficult to create. Once you have all the research work ready, then I think it is easier to build things. I knew there would be difficulties. I think that was a challenge I took.

Which filmmakers have been your inspiration?

Amit Sharma: The way Satyajit Ray showed reality in his films is so beautiful. Hrishikesh Mukherjee is one director who I adore. He made entertaining films. He can make any kind of cinema. I admire them both.

What are you working on next?

Amit Sharma: I have two ideas that I’m working on but have not locked anything yet.

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