Producers: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Shital Bhatia, Kumar Mangat Pathak
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kajal Aggarwal, Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Sheirgill, Divya Dutta, Rajesh Sharma
Music: MM Kareem
Neeraj Pandey made an impressive debut in 2008 with A Wednesday, proving he was a filmmaker of substance. This time, Pandey weaves together Special 26, which is based on actual events that occurred in the 1980s. It is about a group of conmen who robbed corrupt politicians and businessmen across the country by impersonating CBI and Income Tax officers. Pandey presents his product beautifully but fails on the commercial elements in his screenplay.
Among the plusses are perfect casting and the factual substance on the storyboard which is presented with conviction on the silver screen. But the commercialisation of the screenplay is awkward and brings down the narrative a notch.
The film starts with CBI officer Ajay Singh (Akshay Kumar) along with his superior PK Sharma (Anupam Kher) and their subordinates (Rajesh Sharma and Kishore Kadam) conducting a raid at a local politician’s home in Delhi. They are assisted by Police Inspector Ranveer Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill) and Divya Dutta (Shantiji). Later, it comes to light that the raid was a hoax and the CBI officers were imposters. The politician refuses to lodge a complaint as it would unnecessarily broadcast his illegal activities. So the bogus agents go unnoticed.
Ranveer Singh and Shantiji are suspended for being fooled by the conmen. Soon, similar cases are brought to the CBI’s attention by Singh. Wasim Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) is in charge of the case, which is still under wraps from the media and the public. What happens when the fake conmen are pitted against the real cops forms the crux of the story.
Pandey smartly executes the ’80s theme and successfully showcases the era. Right from the cars to the currency to locations and costumes, he is bang on. Pandey is a brilliant storyteller but the inclusion of commercial elements mars the film. For instance, the romance between Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal is forced. The relationship between them sets a weak sub-plot for a film that has a lot to boast about.
Kudos to Pandey for handling the raid scenes with élan. The swiftness and pace of the commotion is perfectly balanced. He does a splendid job when it comes to researching the actual events and depicting them. Editing by Shree Narayan Singh is average; cinematography by the late Bobby Singh is top rate; the wide shots are smartly managed; and the depiction of the ’80s era is credible. Nonetheless, it is the VFX department that is a letdown. The Chroma key effect is preposterous. Music is okay. Background score by Sanjoy Chowdhury is commendable.
Performance-wise, Akshay Kumar plays with the undertone of his character carefully. His performance is a perfect blend of confidence and subtlety. Kajal Aggarwal is just about okay. Anupam Kher gets into the skin of his character and is a master at emoting his part. Manoj Bajpayee plays his part with flamboyance. Jimmy Sheirgill has very little screen time but he’s superb. The twist in the tale makes his role impactful. He plays his part with ease and poise. Divya Dutta in her discreet role is fabulous. Rajesh Sharma and Kishore Kadam lend adequate support. The other supporting cast members fit the bill.
Verdict: A well-made and well-promoted film. It may not have started with a bang but the word-of-mouth publicity is strong and its prospects look fruitful at the ticket counter.