Neeraj Pandey’s ‘A Wednesday!’ was an unforgettable film. The manner in which the film gripped the viewer and presented a twist that no one had expected gave a distinct touch to the film, and hence the movie is rightly today termed as a classic. Neeraj’s next, Special 26, too follows suit and does resemble his first film in many aspects. There’s a cat and mouse game going on between the cops and baddie(s) and the best is reserved for the finale! The romantic portion does spoil things to an extent but that’s a very minor glitch. The film has lots to offer and succeeds in meeting all expectations!
The story of the movie: Ajay (Akshay Kumar), Sharma (Anupam Kher), Joginder (Rajesh Sharma) and Iqbal (Kishore Kadam) are thieves who impersonate as CBI officers and ‘raid’ the residences and offices of those having tons of black money. The confidence with which they execute their operations and even involve local cops and officials leaves everyone stunned. ‘Asli’ CBI officer Wasim (Manoj Bajpayee) is not impressed and decides to nail the culprits. He takes the help of police officer Ranveer Singh (Jimmy Shergill) who had unknowingly helped the con men raid the residence of a minister. Meanwhile, Ajay and his gang are going on with their raids and are planning something huge before they call it a day. Will they succeed? Will Wasim manage to thwart their operations?
Special 26 is 143 minutes long and Neeraj Pandey’s direction ensures viewers are glued on to the screen. The first raid of the film, shown at the very commencement, is hilarious and takes its own sweet time to unfold. One knows, thanks to the promos, what’s going to follow and yet one enjoys the ride. That’s the power of Neeraj’s direction…hats off! The conversations between Manoj and Jimmy (what was Lord Shiva doing in CBI office?!) and the Kolkata heist of the con men makes the first half an entertaining fare. The second half too has its moments and in many ways is better than the initial hour. The interviewing process could have been better but does entertain nevertheless. However, the real fun begins in the last 30 minutes in the final showdown between the two sides. The unexpected events that unfold at this juncture are seen to be believed! Of course, questions arise in one’s mind and the loopholes come out loud and clear. But who cares! Special 26 provides a unique experience after all. The narrative, the setting and the characters are as convincing and realistic as possible. Hence, the glitches towards the finale won’t be a matter of concern. What doesn’t work however is the romantic portion of Ajay and Priya (Kajal Aggarwal).
Special 26 is laced with some brilliant performances. Akshay Kumar delivers an award worthy performance and yet again proves that he’s one of the best. Akshay has played twisted characters earlier (Tees Maar Khan, Blue, Tashan etc) but what he’s done in Special 26 is unlike anything else he’s essayed in the past. And yet again, Akshay proves he’s ready to embrace all kinds of cinema. Hats off to this marvelous actor!
Anupam Kher has acted in over 400 films but Special 26 surely get the distinction of one of his all-time best performances! The actor off late has been essaying inconsequential and not-so-challenging roles in films like Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Desi Boyz, Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum etc and he was surely on the lookout for a well-etched role. When he finally gets one, with Special 26, he ensures he comes up with nothing but the best. Manoj Bajpayee who’s in top form, thanks to success of Gangs Of Wasseypur part 1, gives yet another terrific performance. He’s in many ways the second lead of the film and keeps the tempo high with his acts and one-liners! Check out the way he threatens his superior for a pay raise! Jimmy Shergill looks adorable and puts his best forward. Same goes for Divya Dutta (Shanti Yadav) although one misses her in the middle portions of the film. Rajesh Sharma and Kishore Kadam lend adequate support and look straight out of life.
Kajal Aggarwal looks charming but is wasted. Sukhvinder Chahal (minister), Mukesh Bhatt (PA) and Abha Parmar (minister’s wife) are hilarious and too good. Tiku Talsania (jewellery store owner) is funny and nice to see him on screen after ages! Neeru Bajwa is stunning and so is Neetu Singh (Wasim’s wife). Others are fine.
In a film like Special 26, music had no scope. Gore Mukhde Pe, Kaun Mera, Mujh Mein Tu and Dharpakad are well-composed tracks but served no purpose in the film except Kaun Mera that was nicely woven in the film. Surender Sodhi’s background score is impactful and reminiscent of the 80s. Late Bobby Singh’s cinematography is flawless. Vaishnavi Reddy’s sets are brilliant and the detailing that have gone into coming up with a late 80s setting is praiseworthy. VFX however isn’t great at places.
Neeraj Pandey’s writing and direction packs a punch. The script and plot, inspired from real-life events, are immensely interesting and Neeraj adds his own trademark twists towards the finale that makes for a great watch. There are places where the film tends to drag, especially the scenes where the con men are carrying out the raid and Wasim is shown going on his way for work on his scooter. However, it’s all neatly done and thanks to the treatment, 80s style background score etc, one actually enjoys the process. However, the reason why Special 26 falls one step short of a classic is the entire romantic trick and the unexplained bits towards the climax. The latter is still fine but the lovey-dovey moments were unnecessary. After all, is it really indispensable for a film to have songs and romance? Also, was it necessary for someone like Neeraj Pandey to fall prey to these diktats? There were no romantic leads in ‘A Wednesday!’ and it worked so well. He could have attempted something similar in Special 26 too. But keeping aside the flaws, the film does have meat and makes for a great watch!
Best scenes of the film:
1. Raid at minister’s place
2. Wasim’s entry
3. Wasim meets Ranveer Singh
4. The raid in Kolkata
5. The intermission point
6. The gang assembles in Bombay
7. The selection process
8. The final 30-35 minutes
On the whole, Special 26 is an incredible film that leaves you stunned and thoroughly entertained despite the glitches. The romantic track serves no purpose but the film has lot of plusses that makes Special 26 a must watch film of the year. Performances are exemplary and the script and narrative is first-rate. At the box office, Special 26 surprisingly hasn’t got a flying start. A common grouse of a section of audiences is that Akshay always comes up with mindless films. But Special 26 is different and is a great high-concept fare. Miss it at your own risk!
My rating-**** out of 5!