Special 26 isn’t about Akshay Kumar. Neither is it the music, nor the supremely talented supporting cast. Special 26 is all about the director Neeraj Pandey. His first film, A Wednesday, created such a furore, that his followers are flocking to the cinemas just to see if he is more than a one-film wonder. Thankfully, he is.
‘Inspired by true incidents’ of what transpired on 18 March 1987, Special 26 tells the story of conmen Ajay Singh (Akshay Kumar), PK Sharma (Anupam Kher) and their two associates, and their successful escapades of orchestrating raids across India – including those of prolific ministers and businessmen. They are now planning their fiftieth, and final, raid – of a jewelry store in Bombay. This time, though, they have an extra obstacle: the (apparently) ‘real’ CIB officer, Waseem Khan (Manoj Bajpai), and his team (Jimmy Shergill and Divya Dutta) intend to prevent the raid at all costs. Thus ensues the warring battle between cops and robbers; whether the raid at the jewelry store actually happens, and how both teams persist with their upmanship, forms the crux of the film. Meanwhile, in the midst of his conspiring his raids, Akshay somehow finds time – and heart – to have a girlfriend (Kajal Agarwal), with whom he promises to elope.
- Akshay Kumar – After a year of mass-produced mindless masalas (barring OMG), Akshay Kumar has finally starred in a movie of substance beyond his typecast. Not just that, he actually does well in his part of the shrude conman with a heart of (hidden) gold.
- Neeraj Pandey – The director strikes again! Praises aren’t enough for Pandey, who has effortlessly made a historical issue-based film so engaging and enjoyable! With each film, his popularity is multiplying, and one keenly looks forward to his third venture to see if he can make it a hat-trick!
- Ensemble Cast – That a film cannot just rest on the performance of its central character couldn’t be epitomized any better than in this. Special mention must be given to Anupam Kher and Manoj Bajpai, without whom the film could’ve faltered. It is truly a cinematic pleasure to watch such powerful talents together, and one just hopes to see more of them soon.
- Kajal Agarwal – What is she doing in this film? She isn’t the greatest attraction around, and neither did her character influence the plot. Her presence was only felt when there was a stoppage in proceedings. Why this couldn’t be a heroine-less movie is beyond us.
- Music – Like A Wednesday, this one too didn’t need any songs; the film would’ve been shorter and crisper without them. That the songs themselves weren’t any good just fueled the displeasure further.
- Botched Justice – When a film’s central characters are shown to be so brave, intelligent, heroic, and yet cheat others so easily, proudly and heartlessly, there’s bound to be cognitive dissonance. Even as the reel ends, one remains in a quandary about whether they should join in the celebrations of the conmen’s successful raids, or shame them.
- Foresight of the Unexpected Climax – After watching Pandey’s first film, and knowing what type of genre this movie belongs to, there was always the silent expectation of an ‘unexpected ending’. That the climax wasn’t too mind-blowingly difficult to guess further prompts the ‘I knew that was coming’ hindsight syndrome. There definitely weren’t too many stunned faces around as the credits rolled.
For averting the pitfalls of making an issue-based period film seem like a documentary, and consistently captivating the audience without any major loopholes, Special 26 gets a meaty 3 out of 5.
Now that we’ve recently seen movies like A Wednesday and Kahaani, Special 26 doesn’t come across as path-breaking. Nevertheless, even if you see it with decent expectations, its unlikely you’d feel raided.