Summary:Despite Getting Bogged Down By Forgettable Dance Segments, A Kitschy Romantic Subplot & A Hollow First-Half, Special 26 Gains Momentum Post-Interval And Wins Big With Climax
Special 26 begins well, ends better. Neeraj Pandey knew exactly how he had to surprise his audience, and so he probably wrote the rest of the movie hurriedly, only highlighting the key dialogs, because he knew that even if the audience remained less complimentary towards Special 26 till the interval, they would love it by the end because of the twist ending they had never expected. Before the interval, Pandey does not really have much to tell and so he inflates all his scenes till he can get sufficient footage for the average runtime of a Hindi film, and in the endeavor he wastes a lot many frames on forgettable song and dance sequences and a kitschy romantic subplot. After the intermission, although he begins with the same mistake of tarrying too long on unimportant sequences, once he gets to the section that justifies the film’s true purpose, Pandey’s approach becomes smarter, subtle and succinct. His screenplay required more of the crackling wit and dark humor which movies like 1986s Bette Midler starrer Ruthless People had, and some of Special 26’s cast could’ve enlivened their roles with more spontaneity, yet Neeraj Pandey pulls off a successful heist film with his flair for unexpected climaxes.
The best thing about Special 26 is the title: while you may have a fair idea about what the title stands for in the film from watching the trailer, you would be surprised by how well the title serves as a motif in the film. The motif not only acts as an aid for the game-changing climax but it actually sacrifices itself for the climax. You won’t get what I’m telling right now but understand it after watching the film. I’ll put it this way: The Special 26 in the film serve little purpose in the film except to become scapegoats for the actual purpose of the movie.
The main plot of the film involves a group of crooks posing as CBI agents who raid the filthy-rich and escape with the black money. The two lead crooks are played by Akshay Kumar, who plays Ajay Singh, and Anupam Kher, who plays P.K Sharma; the duo joined by Joginder and Iqbal find this job extremely profitable and easy to execute because in most cases, the aggrieved parties do not file FIR fearing that their name would be tarnished if they do so. One of their successful targets shown in the film is a minister who stashes multiple bundles of notes behind library books and in large containers under the praying area.
The group is accompanied by police officers Ranvir Singh (played by Jimmy Shergill) and Shanti (played by Divya Dutta) who too mistaken them for real CBI officers. After the group successfully escapes, the two officers are left shame-faced and are suspended by their superior. Ajay Singh and the rest then decide to go Kolkata for their next fake operation while Shergill (and Dutta) teams up with real CBI officer Wasim Khan to track the impostors down. On PK Sharma’s insistence, Ajay Singh decides that they need to do something big, and for that they shall need additional help, and so they begin recruiting the ‘Special 26’.
Throughout the raiding sequences, we see money tumbling out of many unexpected places. Some are stashed under the back seat of a dusty unused car. Some are found in locked cupboards. Some are kept in hidden rooms. All throughout, we see the wrongdoers (as in those who’ve stashed the money and are in turn getting robbed) plead and give the silliest of excuses to prevent further raiding. For example, the minister’s wife begs to the officer not to search the temple area as God’s peace would be disturbed. These sequences needed more sparkling humor, and I can think of one person who would’ve got this humor while still retaining the central objective of the film: Paresh Rawal. All we get here is characters going “What is this we have here?” “Sir, look what I’ve found!” without getting more punch lines. And although Akshay and Anupam do a fair job at playing their characters, I believe the film would’ve been much different had for example, Ranbir Kapoor and Pankaj Kapoor or Naserrudin Shah or Rawal played the leads. Akshay Kumar plays Ajay the same style in which Ben Stiller played the lead role in Tower Heist: he seems to be there in every scene, he speaks each line clearly yet he does nothing extra to make him more believable as a street-smart, dexterous con-man who’s capable and smart to execute complex plans. And worse are his unsuccessful attempts at creating chemistry with the inept …; Pandey could’ve easily trimmed the entire film to a brisk ninety minutes by removing much of that time-wasting subplot.
While Special 26 succeeds whenever it exclusively focuses on its core plot, it disappoints when it deviates to back-stories and subplots. People are raving about this movie as if it’s something they’ve never seen in Indian cinema, but I’d like to remind that there was a similar film which achieved resounding overall success in its execution some years ago – Hera Pheri.
- Movie Review: Special 26 (dawn.com)