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'Diego Maradona's life is a Shakespearean story, filled with pride and pathos'

British director Asif Kapadia's latest biopic brings to life the rise and fall of the footballer.

, ET Online|
Updated: Oct 23, 2019, 12.34 PM IST
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Asif ​Kapadia (L) recounts peeling off the many layers that maketh the man - Maradona​.
Asif Kapadia (L) recounts peeling off the many layers that maketh the man - Maradona.
Asif Kapadia is elated these days. ‘Diego Maradona’, the labour of his new love based on the life of the eponymous footballer, has borne fruit, and the British director of Indian descent couldn’t be happier.

He certainly has reason to be. It is not every day that you get to spend time with one of football’s all-time greats, also known to have a mercurial temper, and have him talk to you about the game, life and creating and breaking records.

And Kapadia counts himself among the lucky souls.

“I was lucky enough to have met Maradona five-six times in Dubai over the course of two years. Naturally, I have had both good and not-so-great experiences with him, including being made to wait and then have him call off the meeting,” the 47-year-old director recalls, settling down for a chat at PVR Home in Vasant Kunj.

For those who have followed the Argentine’s life trajectory, this comes as no surprise as he was known to have a nasty temper, on-field, and away from it. But like most celebrities, scratch the surface, and beneath the veneer is a regular individual.

Maradona was no different, says Kapadia, as he recounts peeling off the many layers that maketh the man who, behind his cult-like status, was “very charming” once he found his comfort zone.

“After the first two times, when I went to his house, it was just him, me and the translator. And Diego, sitting on his sofa, was relaxed and easy, and spoke about things that he had never brought up with anyone else,” the director says.

​The 130-minute-long biopic 'Diego Maradona'​ has a mix of never-before-seen private, archival footage, and interviews conducted​ by Asif Kapadia.
The 130-minute-long biopic 'Diego Maradona' has a mix of never-before-seen private, archival footage, and interviews conducted by Asif Kapadia.

And it shows in the 130-minute-long biopic which has a mix of never-before-seen private, archival footage and interviews that Kapadia conducted. For fans, though, ‘Diego’ is a difficult watch, revisiting the rise and fall of the talented giant, trapped in his own world over the years, and almost invoking a sense of the famed Greek hubris.

“Hubris, it is. Diego’s tale is very much like a Greek classic. His is a Shakespearean story, there’s pride, there’s pathos and there’s a perverted sense of justice,” he says.

But unlike a classical hero, Maradona never looks back (in anger). Neither does he show any weakness, regret or remorse in his interactions, says the man behind award-winning ‘Senna’ and ‘Amy’.

“‘Diego’ is part-’Senna’, part-’Amy’, with a bit of Maradona thrown in. All three are about myth-building, the making of legends and about people who rise from almost nothing to become gods, and then subsequently crash,” he says.

And all three have had a complex relationship with fame. While he chronicled Senna and Amy Winehouse only after their deaths, Maradona was a living subject who, till date, remains an enigma to many.

Conspicuous by his no-show at Cannes where the film premiered earlier in May this year, the Argentine, was reportedly unhappy with film’s poster where the word ‘Hustler’- along with ‘Rebel, Hero, God’ - have been used as a tagline, describing him.

Asif Kapadia won the EE British Academy Film Awards for 'Amy' in the Best Documentary category on February 14, 2016.
Asif Kapadia won the EE British Academy Film Awards for 'Amy' in the Best Documentary category on February 14, 2016.

But Kapadia is not too perturbed, and says that all the four adjectives have been sourced from the film itself. He thanks the player’s official biographer, Daniel Arucci, who has spent 30 years travelling with Maradona, and called it “a tough film but at the same time very loving towards Maradona.”

“Arcucci himself appears in the film and he says, ‘In the guise of a rebel, the hero is a cheat as well.’ And we all know that he is a God for millions, and even Latin American journalists are pretty much in awe of him,” Kapadia says, smiling.

And while Argentina replaced the word cheat with “hustler” in order to preserve his cult-like status, the Middle East went ahead and dropped “God” from the poster, he adds.

“So everyone has their own version of Maradona that they want to hold on to. In my mind, he remains a rebel, an anti-establishment person, who, naturally, is considered a hero to many,” Kapadia says, in a moment of introspection, as we wrap.

A hero to many, a flawed genius to others. There truly is no single label that can be used to describe someone as complex like Diego Maradona.

More Politics, Please! Modi Biopic, 'Thackeray' & Other Films That Courted Controversy

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Election Mode

16 Apr, 2019
It's poll season in India. The 2019 multi-phased Lok Sabha elections have kicked off across the country. And it seems that political fervour has found flavour on screen as well. Biopics and films on political intrigue have created quite a buzz on social media, and away from it as well. This year, so far, has witnessed the announcement and release of three such movies on top political figures of the country across decades. While some of these have been deemed offensive, others have been touted as political propaganda. Hailed by fans, slammed by critics and trolls, these films nevertheless have been talked about. Here's a look at films with political hues that have courted controversy:
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