Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Shergill and Kajal Aggarwal
Inspired by real-life events. That statement creates a certain blanket effect for a film. Saving it from its own loop holes, because the viewers’ mind keeps harking back to the thought that ‘this really happened’. Special 26 benefits from that statement immensely. On the strength of its actors’ performances and filmmaking technique this film rises above its many narrative loop holes to give you a fairly entertaining experience.
Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday was lauded because it had a social stand and it gave a fierce voice to the common man’s supressed emotions. Nothing of that sort happens in Special 26. But, had the film taken one such stand, perhaps we’d have had another Munnabhai MBBS. But it doesn’t. Instead, it plays out like a regular heist movie. A band of very professional guys fake CBI identities and raid a minister’s home. They make off with all his black money and of course nobody files complaints because end of the day its theft of illegal assets. But an honest cop and a spirited CBI officer team up to hunt the perpetrators down. There’s a romantic angle as well, but that is by far the weakest link of the film.
Watching the meticulously planned heists in Special 26 is a thrilling experience. The depth of writing shines through in its plots and subplots. The movie pits two lead characters against one another, Akshay Kumar’s Ajay and Manoj Bajpayee’s Waseem. Ajay’s confident the law and order can’t apprehend him and Waseem believes he can outsmart any crook on the planet. As these guys lock horns the movie’s entertainment kicks into gear. The drama is amplified by superb dialogue that adds a touch of dry humour as well.
This is a movie based in 1987. Pandey’s shot on location in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Full marks to him and his production designer for getting the period feel right. With smart camera angles, a little CGI and superb prop use (old cars, clothes, hoardings, newspapers etc) Special 26 recreates an India in the eighties. Also valuable are the background music and shots where the camera walks with the characters. It creates a sense of adrenaline. Making you sit up and take notice.
All said and done, when the climax finally hits you it leaves too many questions unanswered. Too many possibilities unresolved. If the CBI know where you live, it’s obvious they won’t let you get away. But the story’s shortcomings really don’t matter because by the time the end arrives performances from Akshay Kumar, Manoj Bajpayee and Anupam Kher have charmed the pants off everyone. Akshay gives a controlled performance sans any of his usual onscreen histrionics. Bajpayee is as good as he always is, but the show stealer here is Mr Kher. His nervous and edgy character keeps jumping into bouts of overconfident leadership and the veteran actor shows why he’s one of the best acting talents in the country, ever.
Special 26 is an engaging film. Sure it’s end could’ve been much better. Sure this isn’t Pandey’s best. But this is still one of the best films you’ll watch this year.
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