Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review of Special 26:

Cast:  Akshay Kumar, Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Sheirgill, Divya Dutta

Direction:  Neeraj Pandey

There is something about Neeraj Pandey's definition of social justice that makes it delectably dangerous, unethical yet urgent.

His debut film A Wednesday had Naseeruddin Shah gypping the Mumbai police force to underline the only obvious punishment that terrorists deserve. In his new film, Pandey is out tormenting the high and mighty who thrive on black money. A nation with growing doubts over its judicial system would lap this up, and Pandey's Special 26 plays to the galleries while forwarding what he feels should be the right treatment for such enemies of the state.
The idea makes Special 26 a gripping pop thriller set against a pertinent issue, just as A Wednesday was. You could argue the subtext message in both films is politically incorrect. Or, you could look at Pandey's efforts as bids to draw focus on such issues.

Special 26 incidentally marks Pandey's foray into bigtime Bollywood, touting the superstar mug of Akshay Kumar on the posters. Before anything, this is not your typical Akki masala. The actor does a chameleon turn admirably, shedding his glam garb of a larger-than-life hero to morph into an authentic character.

The story penned by Pandey is set in the eighties, an era when the subject of ill-gotten and wrongly-stashed wealth had started consuming ample media space. The writer-director has claimed his script is based on true cases from the police files. You find specific instances that hark back to headline-grabbing news items of that era, including an infamous jewellery heist of 1987 in Mumbai's Opera House area.

Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher play conmen who make most of the situation along with their cronies. Their modus operandi is simple. They pose as CBI officers investigating the black money menace and land up at the homes of powerful politicians and businessmen all over India on the pretext of income tax raids. Then, they coolly walk off with the illegal wealth they unearth in these homes.

The beauty of the scam lies in the fact that the politician or businessman in question - no matter how big he is - is too scared to talk about the raid at his home or shop, lest it should dent his public image. Twist in the tale comes when the real CBI finds out. A top team headed by officer Wasim Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) is sent after the conmen.

Special 26 is a thriller that reveals a young filmmaking brain at his creative best. However, Pandey could have avoided the overt focus on giving his hero a love life (Kajal Aggarwal). The standard bhangra naach trip was not needed, too. The film would be crisper by a good half hour if these frills were cut.

Much of the brilliance on screen comes from the primary cast. Anupam Kher lends seasoned screen presence to a layered role while Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Sheirgill and Divya Dutta impress as always.

The toast, though, has to be Akshay. This must be his most restrained act yet. Bollywood's resident Khiladi just unleashed a whacky new game for his fans.


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