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Maradona: Blessed Dream, Amazon Prime Video’s 10-part biographical drama, is based on the life of the late Diego Armando Maradona – a football legend, often revered as one of the greatest of all time. As effortless as his game looked on-field, his personal life often found itself marred with controversies galore, with headline after headline speculating about his off-the-field persona.

In the first episode of the series, Promise, a young Maradona dejectedly reads a headline in a newspaper that refers to him as ‘Caradona.’ Later on, as he is interviewed and asked about his dream, half his answer is edited out at the time of its actual telecast. Foreshadowing what would turn out to be a summary of his relationship with the press, he says, “They either spell my name incorrectly or change my dreams.”

However, the series, directed by Alejandro Aimetta, doesn’t aim to whitewash the image of the central character. It’s self-aware, capturing a non-linear but as-factual-as-possible series of events. The first shot of the show begins with a dazed and almost incoherent Maradona in his 40s, who stumbles and fumbles in a beach house, imagining the sound of the waves as the cheers of his crowd. He loses consciousness soon after – fatally overdosed. The scenes jump back and forth in time, as on one hand, Maradona fights the battle of life, and on the other, he fights the battle against odds.

The football icon had an immensely fascinating back story – something the series captures elaborately and quite grippingly. Raised in a tight-knit, poverty-stricken family struggling to meet ends, a young but highly-talented Pelusa (Maradona’s nickname) with curly hair from Villa Fiorito – a small neighborhood in Argentina – gets a chance to play professional football. He grabs the opportunity, learns the ropes and soon becomes one of the biggest names in European football. All this, amidst massive political unrest and the fight for democracy in his country.

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The series touches upon several other aspects surrounding Maradona’s rise. On one hand, as he scores goals after goals in his Juniors and international career in the late 70s and early 80s, his country is plagued with the consequences of the Dirty War, where several individuals “disappeared” after being taken by the military government without any charges or government records. These disappearances led to a protest by several women seeking justice for their lost kin. As Maradona leaves on a bus with the rest of his team while the protests are on the road, you realise the extent of the “blessed dream” he could now live, at a time many others from his country struggled to live through the day.

Interestingly, the footballer even acknowledges “living in a bubble” when he meets some activists years later in Episode 5, Broken. He is later seen reading about the revolutionary, Che Guevara – whose image he eventually gets inked on his right shoulder.

Every episode, spanning an hour each, is equivalent to a chapter in Maradona’s life. It gives the viewers a peek into not only his training and evolution as a sportsperson but also as a person. It’s also a behind-the-scenes look into his relationships with his parents, friends, managers, clubs and his girlfriend-turned-wife, Claudia. His love story with Claudia, in fact, starts off as one of those cliched meet cutes where two people stumble upon each other in their teens and fall in love almost instantly. What they have for each other is honest, earnest and even endearing. But Maradona, living a life of wanted and unwanted attention, keeps getting involved in several affairs outside of his commitment to Claudia. While he tries to hide them from her, it becomes fairly evident that she had already known of it all – courtesy the red flags and the tabloids. Even then, she chooses to stay with him for a long time thereafter, in a display of the conditioning women used to – and continue to – face in a “man’s world” for he was the one with needs.

While Maradona’s personal life increasingly became a public spectacle with his rising popularity, it isn’t hard to understand why he had such a massive fan following. He was the human interest success story the world wanted to hear. He was unfazed, opinionated and outspoken – a rarity that often found its fandom. More importantly, his game was incredible. He owned his games, starring in the biggest wins for his clubs as well as his national team. The series, in fact, juxtaposes most of the football shots from file footages of the actual games, making the scenes more realistic and Maradona’s genius more palpable.

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When he moves to FC Barcelona – a football club he couldn’t even dream of playing for as a youngster – he’s moved to tears at the colossal form his dreams had shaped into. However, it was evident that for the team owners, he was merely a goal-scoring machine. From facing racist slurs for being “South American” to getting him monitored because he was “different” from the rest of his teammates, he soon realizes that he was trapped despite the luxuries he could now afford. The lead up to his controversial equation with then Barca president Josep Lluis Nunez, and later on, the team’s heated fight on field after a loss to Athletic Bilbao in the 1984 Copa del Rey final are particularly interesting to watch, even for a non-football fan.

The start of Maradona’s fateful drug addiction, after the end of his stint with Barcelona and before the beginning of Napoli, foreshadows the side-effects of what immense fame, money and constant scrutiny can do to a person’s frame of mind. These were all choices that the footballer had made, as Claudia once says, and the series does well in not hiding or altering this with justifications.

Maradona: Blessed Dream is packed with many memorable moments that go on to showcase the highs, lows and in-betweens of the former Argentinean captain and coach, nicknamed as “The Golden Boy.” Packaged with real footages and interview clips of Maradona towards the end of each episode, the series gives an intricate, well-researched account of the rise of a legend on-field and the struggle of a flawed human off it. [A special mention goes to the casting – almost every time the scene shifts from a real-life footage to a reel-life one, one has to blink their eyes twice to realise the transition. The Maradonas on-screen (Juan Palomino, Nazareno Casero and Nicolas Goldschmidt) do justice to the responsibility that comes with their role.]

The first seven episodes of the series are now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. The remaining three will release every Friday.

Recommendation in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video.

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