Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Special 26: The heist that almost worked
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)
Bollywood hasn’t had an impressive track record with thrillers. Most have been slow and predictable while some were downright preposterous.
Director Neeraj Pandey‘s “A Wednesday“, a film about an ordinary Mumbai citizen who plots to kill terror masterminds, was a breath of fresh air in 2008. It was imaginative, taut and full of twists and turns.
But Pandey’s new film “Special 26″, a heist drama, does not quite hit the bull’s eye — with an insipid love story and a forgettable “item number” playing spoilsport.
It does have a good plot to begin with. Inspired from a real-life jewellery heist in 1987, the film is about a gang of con artists who masquerade as law enforcement officers to rob politicians and businessmen of their “black money” or undeclared wealth.
As leaders of the gang, Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher play their roles to the hilt. In films such as “Rowdy Rathore” and “Khiladi 786”, Kumar relied on brawn or slapstick to impress audiences but here he gets to show off his acting skills, while Kher is at his charming and versatile best.
The director’s attention to detail is commendable. Among the elements that work wonderfully to depict the 1980s on screen — a Connaught Place dotted with hmt and Only Vimal stores, an electric blender that baffles Kher’s character with its mere existence, and Maruti hatchbacks zooming through Delhi and Mumbai streets.
“Special 26″ does not rely on crude jokes or slapstick comedy and sticks to subtle humour. The show stealer is Manoj Bajpayee who plays the CBI officer chasing the impersonators. It’s hard to take your eyes off Bajpayee in his turn as a ruthless investigator with deadpan delivery.
But the highly dispensable romance between Kumar’s character and Priya (Kajal Aggarwal in an ornamental role) defuses the tension and slows the film to an unforgivable pace — a cardinal sin in any heist drama.
Pandey was bold enough to make “A Wednesday” without a 20-something woman as eye candy, but he disappoints the second time around.
““Special 26″ is not a bad film. It keeps the audience engaged. Sadly, it could have been much better.
(Follow Diksha Madhok on Twitter @diksha16)