Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal in 'Special 26'

Neeraj Pandey, after being director, writer, doing the dialogues and the screenplay for 2008’s ‘A Wednesday’, returns with his same talents in ‘Special 26’. With a multi star-cast and an inevitably appealing plot, one wonders whether Pandey would achieve the kind of acclaim with this film as he did with his last. However, having been heavily promoted and branded as a heist drama film, one other question would inevitably be on an average cinema-goer’s lips: Can Akshay Kumar really pull this one off? Kumar has, of late, not seen too much success in his films in the comedy genre. ‘Special 26’ would not see him do any action and neither would it obviously see him actively trying to make the audiences laugh. Would ‘Special 26’ put Kumar back on the map as an entertainer?

Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal in 'Special 26'
Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal in 'Special 26'

Set in 1987, the story of ‘Special 26’ surrounds a number of characters. There is the leader of the pack, Ajay (Kumar), who heads up operations of a group who pretend to be the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in India. His allies consist of a group of three, one of which is Sharmaji (Anupam Kher). When the group set out to raid a minister’s house, they take help from the local police (played by Jimmy Sheirgill and Divya Dutta). In perfect disguise, both in character, avatar and action, the foursome manage to get their hands on a considerable sum of money with the police as witness. When the heist comes to an end and the truth about the four – who posed as CBI officials – emerges, Ranveer Singh (Sheirgill) and Shantiji (Dutta) are suspended. This causes them to step up and take the help of the real CBI (Officer played by Manoj Bajpai) to find the robbers.

‘Special 26’ is based on a true occurrence which took place on 19th March 1987. Keeping that in mind, the treatment of the characters and the various robberies depicted within the movie are done so with immaculate attention to detail. Pandey’s portrayal and vision of a group that causes chaos and dupes the unlikeliest of people is, quite simply, an audience’s delight. The intertwining of characters, stories and investigative anecdotes is expertly put to the audience and never once insults the intelligence of the viewer. The plot unravels cleverly and almost feels as if one is putting a puzzle together. Credit goes fully to Pandey for this and for the satisfaction one feels when watching such a film.

Kumar absolutely outdoes himself as Ajay. His extremely straight-forward, focused andunwavering stability as an actor and character comes through with every expression and every dialogue. One could say that he almost carries the film on his shoulders alone but with the help of a very strong ensemble cast which he could not do it without. Kher, Sheirgill and Bajpai are frankly a pleasure to watch on one screen. They fit into their respective characters with much ease and provide a very well written and well represented set of scenes their due.Never do they overpower each other in any scene and that is the sign of a great director in Pandey. Dutta, although not having much of a role, manages to be the much-needed catalyst. Kajal Aggarwal plays Kumar’s love interest and does so in a very simple fashion. It is not entirely clear why she is needed in the story but she provides the overall plot with the token love story which, it is assumed, every Bollywood movie is thought to need. Neeru Bajwa makes a special appearance in the song Gore Mukhde Pe- the only song in the movie composed by Himesh Reshammiya – and dances her heart out.

Akshay Kumar in 'Special 26'
Akshay Kumar in 'Special 26'

The soundtrack of ‘Special 26’ is melodious and does the job it needs to in the movie. MM Kreem makes a return to Hindi cinema as music director but doesn’t seem to quite hit the same chord as he has done in previous albums. The two songs which stand out are Mujh Mein Tu – a version of which is sung by Kumar – and Dhar Pakad.

‘Special 26’ very much comes across as your average film. However, such an underdog is always one that ends up giving an unexpected wow factor. Surprisingly endearing and an unforeseen kind of entertainment is what the film has to offer. This is the perfect movie which throws caution to the wind and stands as example that a film should never be judged by its cover. It’s one you’ve got to see for yourself to believe!

BizAsia Showbiz rating: 4/5