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Feb 092013
 




By Naveen

The name Akshay Kumar is synonymous with mindless comedies and some of the most vile garbage from Bollywood. So, Special 26 was not even on the horizon for the choice of my weekend Bollywood fix.

However my curiosity got the better of me after I learnt that Special 26 is made by the same guy who made the wonderful “A Wednesday” (2008).

I decided to give Special 26 a shot and to my surprise, I walked out satisfied and thoroughly entertained.

Neeraj Pandey did not disappoint me or the brisk crowd that assembled in Regal Cinemas for the Friday night show. He proved that “A Wednesday” was no flash in the pan.

Story

Special 26 stars Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Manoj Bajpai in lead roles with Jimmy Shergill, Kajal Agarwal and Divya Dutta in support roles.

Neeraj Pandey has written and directed this taut thriller/caper.

It seems that the story is inspired from a real-life robbery of a major jewelry store in Bombay in mid-1980’s by a gang of con-men pretending to be from the CBI.

This movie is set in 1987.

Ajay (Akshay Kumar), P.K. Sharma (Anupam Kher) and their two allies are con men. They conduct raids on corrupt businessmen and politicians by pretending to CBI / Income Tax officers and steal whatever booty they find stashed. The victims never report the loss or file a police case for fear of the news of their ill-gotten wealth going public.

One such “raid” on a minister’s house results in the suspension of Sub-Inspector Ranveer Singh (Jimmy Shergill) and Shanti (Divya Dutta). Ranveer decides to make it as his personal mission to catch the gang and teams up with CBI officer Wasim Khan (Manoj Bajpai).

They find out that the gang is planning something big for their last “raid” before their retire into obscurity and Wasim Khan decides to catch them during the act.

Go watch the movie to know what happens.

What’s Special about Special 26?

Special 26 has many things working for it.

The basic premise is very believable.

The brazen simplicity of the crime and the relentless focus on the subject matter makes it a riveting watch.

Neeraj Pandey doesn’t lose the plot in unnecessary sub-plots (there is one and I will come to it in a little while) and he does not over-think the crime to the point of making it look over the top.

The narrative spans over three “raids” the third being the big and final one. Each raid is detailed yet engrossing.

The fast screenplay ensures that audience doesn’t get a chance to start nit-picking flaws and loop holes.

The simplicity of the story and the speed of the screenplay is admirably matched with a highly competent performance by the cast.

Anupam Kher doesn’t need any introduction. His seamless transformation from a crook to a loving family man to a scared thief is a lesson in acting for many wannabe stars. Only in India would such talents be wasted in inconsequential father roles.

Manoj Bajpai gives a spirited performance as the honest and earnest CBI officer. Both Bajpai and Anupam Kher get some of the best lines in the movie. Bajpai’s urgency, frustration and anger are very realistic.

Akshay Kumar has never won any acclaims for his acting skills. Here also he doesn’t win any. Neeraj Pandey has hidden Akshay Kumar’s acting limitations by making him less expressive and limiting his dialogues.

A sober and quiet Akshay kumar with no monkeying around almost makes you think that he is a decent actor! What is impressive is that all three actors are given solid roles and good screen time.

The powerful BGM helps keep the audience at the end of the seat with anticipation. However, there is no variety to the music. Maybe they could have used different themes for different robberies.

What’s Not So Special

The weakest link in the movie is the totally unnecessary romance track between Ajay and Priya (Kajal Agarwal). This is the unwanted sub-plot that I was referring above.

Why Neeraj Pandey, who has otherwise made a thrilling film, would want to insert a totally useless track and a few songs is beyond comprehension. The totally editable track along with the completely forgettable songs cause unwanted hiccups in the narration and editing it out would have made the movie even more engrossing.

Kajal Agarwal cannot emote, cannot dance, cannot speak dialogues properly and isn’t the most glamorous actress. She should be set packing to Telugu and Tamil movies where such talentless noobs are in high demand!

The other thing that stood out were some poor graphics. The use of graphics in the background to show Mumbai of 1987 and random scenery was very obvious and quite laughable by even Bollywood standards.

Verdict

Special 26 is an entertaining movie that you can watch with the whole family.

It has an interesting story, fast narrative, solid performances and some surprise twists and turns.

It is rare for Akshay Kumar to not make an ass of himself.

Go watch it!

  14 Responses to “Special 26 – A Jolly Caper”

  1. This sentence – “Neeraj Sharma has hidden Akshay kumar’s acting limitations by making him less expressive and limiting his dialogues.”- under “What’s Special about Special 26?”

    Should be Neeraj Pandey..

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Fixed. Thanks!

  2. The movie was enjoyable in parts to me. One scene where Wasim Khan asks his senior to increase his salary or he’ll start taking bribes was funny and seemed out of place, until the ending minutes of the film, when it made a lot of sense (especially when Wasim starts getting less assertive)

    Otherwise this film was no better than a B grade hollywood thriller, with a stupid twist close to the end.

    The film was as bad/good as ‘A Wednesday’.

    I went to the film after reading review on searchindia.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write: Otherwise this film was no better than a B grade hollywood thriller….I went to the film after reading review on searchindia.

    SI reviewer Naveen is processing your ticket refund! ;)

    • 1. No refunds for narsayya! He finds Special 26 enjoyable in parts and he hasn’t made up his mind whether it was as Bad or as Good as A Wednesday. According to me if a Bollywood movie is as Bad as A Wednesday then it must be Good!

      2. By comparing Special 26 with Hollywood thrillers narsayya has kind of elevated the stature of this movie!

      3. What is wrong with Hollywood B movies? Quentin Tarantino will take offence if we were to deride those! :-D

      SearchIndia.com Responds:

      You write: According to me if a Bollywood movie is as Bad as A Wednesday then it must be Good!

      Very True.

      Well put! :)

      • A Wednesday was an ok movie.

        The idea was incomplete, dangerous, and the lengthy monologue towards the end had me bored.

        Hollywood b grade thrillers means, like Basic Instincts, etc.. not Quentin’s satirical take on them.

        I went to the movie just to munch on the popcorn.

        The multiplex close to my house has this awesome popcorn that melts in the mouth.

        Yeah, I discovered it recently when I went to watch ‘Kadal:)

        If I find a way to source these corns, and make them as good, no more watching movies for me.

        Even for Chennai, I find it uncomfortable to sit through a movie after interval with a/c on full blast, after having gulped 650ml of coke.

        SearchIndia.com Responds:

        You write: I went to the movie just to munch on the popcorn.

        A great reason to watch Indian movies! Perhaps, the only one. ;)

        Back when SI lived in India, I don’t seeing remember popcorn in theatres.

        They had Cutlets and Coffee from that Espresso machine that expelled an impressive whoosh sound that made the natives including yours truly sufficiently impressed!

        BTW, popcorn in most American theatres is truly hideous! :(

        How much does a large popcorn cost at an Indian theatre? It’s $7 or $8 in American theatres!

        Now let me get back to watching Mouna Ragam!

        • It’s the second time I’ve been to theatre in 5 yrs.

          130rs for popcorn+650ml coke. And this is in Chennai.

          The large popcorn is 90rs I think.

          SearchIndia.com Responds:

          $2.5 for popcorn and coke is not a bad deal. Popcorn + Soda (coke) should cost at least $10 here, if not more here!

          If ever I come to India, it’ll be only for that great Popcorn + Coke deal in theatres! ;)

          • SI, the cost may be cheaper in India but the quantity is also half or less than half of what you get over here. The quality is also inconsistent… Mostly just average.

            Searchindia.com Responds:

            Everything is big here. I guess they invented “Supersize” in the U.S.

            I’m waiting for them to legalize Pot so that I can have Pot Nachos or Pot Corn while watching a Quentin Tarantino movie!

        • Given PPP, I’d say American popcorn about 30% pricier.

          Perhaps price varies across theatres in Chennai, and across cities in India.

          SearchIndia.com Responds:

          Price apart, the popcorn taste is hideous here in most theatres.

          I can’t remember the last time I had popcorn at a theatre…must be over 2-3 years!

          In some theatres like UA Artistes in Philadelphia, they don’t even add butter….but point to a corner where some weird stuff oozes out of a nozzle! :(

          When a nation goes to the dogs, it’s not easily apparent at first.

          Only through proxy variables like Popcorn in theatres, does one get a sense of where a nation is heading! ;)

          Let me get back to stubborn Revathi in Mouna Ragam!

          Mohan has just started singing Nilave Vaa!

          • You invariably exaggerate US situation.

            I’d give my left hand to be in the US.

            US does make it incredibly hard/impossible for outsiders to get in there legally. Perhaps UK, Singapore is where I’m doomed to end at.

            To me the ideal would be Singapore, with the huge land mass of US. I’m dreaming :)

            SearchIndia.com Responds:

            Sweetie, given your unique background, it should be no secret that the U.S. is on a downward trajectory.

            Had you made history your friend instead of holding it at arm’s length, you’d have had no reason to post this comment.

            The inexorable story of nations, as that of civilizations, is that of rise and fall!

            Given the current geo-economic-political-demographic reality, it’s going to be extremely hard for the U.S. to stay on top for long. Our time is up!

            Of course, the big thing we have in our favor is our large Nuclear arsenal and massive defense infrastructure…gives us some time, some wriggle room but not for long.

            If the U.S. is making it incredibly hard/impossible for outsiders to get in there legally, I’d say we’re not doing enough.

            There are already too many vermin here, far too many!

            If all you want is a placebo, I’d be happy say things are hunky-dory! But I reckon you’re far too smart for placebos! ;)

          • “US does make it incredibly hard/impossible for outsiders to get in there legally. Perhaps UK, Singapore is where I’m doomed to end at.”

            I’d give anything to settle anywhere outside India (excluding developing nations).

            Btw, I guess it’s tougher to settle in the UK as they’re already chasing out even Indians with PR.

            I personally feel US is too congested with Third world denizens :P .. I would rather movie south towards Australia or New Zealand.

            SearchIndia.com Responds:

            1. Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands are not bad…but you have to contend with the language barriers!

            2. You write: I personally feel US is too congested with Third world denizens

            Actually, given its size the U.S. is sparsely populated. Except for the big cities (NYC, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Los Ageles, Houston, eattle, Miami etc), you won’t see too many people elsewhere.

            BTW, Obama/Congress is providing Amnesty to illegal immigrants in the U.S. Most likely the bill will pass this year.

            All Telugu biddas, Tamils, Bhaiyas, Punjabis etc can start packing their bags. ;)

          • UK has a solid program that lets immigrants come there on a permanent business visa at a fraction of the cost/time it takes to apply for a similar visa in US.

            I don’t think immigration of high tech entrepreneurs, workers is harmful to the US. It’s silly to make that assertion.

            Searchindia.com Responds:

            1. You write: I don’t think immigration of high tech entrepreneurs, workers is harmful to the US. It’s silly to make that assertion.

            Absolute baloney!

            One of the main reasons few Americans go in for Computer Science programs is because of the H1B imports from India.

            99% of H1B holders are not “high tech entrepreneurs” but recent graduates from Narasaraopet Institute of Engineering, Chilakaluripet Institute of Engineering Sciences or Kammapuram College of Science etc.

            2. Indians have accounted for a huge chunk of H1B programmers in the last 10 years.

            But I can’t think of a single recent Indian import who has made a meaningful/big entrepreneurial contribution in the technical arena or added a lot of jobs here (hiring his brother or cousin on H1B does not count).

            The so-called “high tech entrepreneurs” are opening Dum Biryani restaurants in New Jersey, not something that’s taking the U.S. forward!

            3. The U.S. too has a Green Card Through Investment program but that requires a significant financial commitment.

          • Fair point. I wasn’t talking of H1B visas. But entrepreneur or startup visas.

            It shouldn’t be that hard to give visas to people with venture fund backing. Even Ycombinator backed deals had trouble getting a simple B1 visa. Its disgraceful.

            Interview street founder is a guy on business visa (non-immigrant), and there are plenty of examples if you dig deep.

            UK is easier, but not many want to go there :)

            SearchIndia.com Responds:

            With rare exceptions, new digital media/IT firms (whether VC-backed or bootstrapped) create very few jobs inside the U.S.

            Romney, Obama and Congress are clueless about the tech sector/Silicon Valley and their inability to create large numbers of jobs. They live in an uninformed bubble and spew drivel at the behest of large corporations like Intel, Microsoft etc who want to import low wage employees from India, China etc to hold down wages here..

            In the rare event a new IT/digital media firm takes off, the management looks to India and China for scaling and manufacturing respectively.

            The only sector that can create jobs in any significant number is manufacturing. And that’s all but vanished in the U.S. (except for some auto companies etc).

          • The US Green card through investment takes more than a year to be processed. Its useless except for retirees.

            I don’t understand this argument about job creation. The motive of a business isnt job creation. Its unfair to expect them to create more jobs.

            new age companies look to employ as less number of people as possible, local or foreign.

            Even if manufacturing comes back to US, which it will in a few years, it won’t provide employment to a lot of people. The biggest stumbling block, is to build an ecosystem of suppliers and producers. All the suppliers are currently concentrated around Asia.

            In the long run, expecting someone to give you jobs is not going to work.

            SearchIndia.com Responds:

            1. You write: In the long run, expecting someone to give you jobs is not going to work.

            True, but expecting someone to grant you easy Visas for nothing is not going to work either. ;)

            There’s no Quid without a Quo in quid pro quo.

            2. You write: I don’t understand this argument about job creation.

            Easy access to visas are directly related to job picture in the U.S.

            When the U.S. economy was humming along “well” and unemployment was low, like until a few years back, getting Visas wasn’t that difficult. English literature graduates used to get jobs in Compaq as programmers in the 1990s.

            I understand they have tightened the Visa issuing process now, and rightly so.

            3. I am not blaming H1B visas alone.

            The technology industry has also evolved and increasingly requires fewer and fewer workers.

            The AP had a three-part series in January that makes for interesting reading:

            1. Recession, tech kill middle-class jobshttp://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-impact-recession-tech-kill-middle-class-jobs

            2. Practically human: Can smart machines do your job?http://bigstory.ap.org/article/practically-human-can-smart-machines-do-your-job-1

            3. Will smart machines create a world without work?http://bigstory.ap.org/article/will-smart-machines-create-world-without-work

          • Convincing a venture fund sitting in SanFran to invest close to half a million in your company isn’t easy work

            Harder than graduating from US univ, and infinitely harder than creating fake credentials for a H1B visa.

            I’ll be interested to see if these policies have an overall positive effect on US economy. But I suspect, US will just chug along, just because a few of its citizens are paranoid, including Indian-Americans like you.

            SearchIndia.com Responds:

            1. At the end of the day, Democracy, at least in theory, is about the greatest benefits for the greatest numbers for every country’s citizens not for foreigners.

            2. I don’t see the U.S. economy improving significantly for another decade notwithstanding the rhetoric of our politicians.

            Housing market is still in shambles, healthcare costs are still astronomically high, jobs are still scarce, college is still unaffordable for many, tax structure is still inequitable, wages are still not keeping pace with productivity gains/cost of living and the general national mood, not surprisingly, is still despondent. Plus, the relentless encroachment of Technology/Internet into new domains is exacerbating the situation. Under such circumstances, U.S. policy ought to be to squeeze foreigners in every possible way. That’s what National Interest is all about. India should do the same vis-a-vis the Bangladeshis and the growing numbers of Chinese in the country. But India is a Soft State, fated only to experience periodic floggings.

            The macroeconomic changes we’re currently seeing in the U.S. are different from earlier recessions, more profound, longer lasting and perhaps even permanent. We’ve crossed the Rubicon but where we’ve ended up is still uncertain.

            Discussion on this subject is Closed. We’ve strayed too far from the above post, which is a Bollywood review!

            I don’t want to anger our “CBI officers” Anupam Kher and Akshay Kumar. ;)

        • “BTW, popcorn in most American theatres is truly hideous! :(”

          Same case here except for some multiplexes.

          “How much does a large popcorn cost at an Indian theatre? It’s $7 or $8 in American theatres!”

          Popcorns in reputed ones like Sathyam group of Cinemas cost a bomb. It might be just $2 – $3 for you when you convert, but for us, Rs.160 is way too expensive for a large popcorn and coke, that too when the ticket itself is just Rs. 120.

          Btw, Vishwaroopam (in Auro 3D) is house full for the second week.

          SearchIndia.com Responds:

          I usually buy Vegetable Rolls for $2 from the Chinese place in the mall and sneak ‘em in! More filling, less harmful and tastier!

          Some theatres have started serving Pizza, Tacos etc to the seats….but I can’t remember where I saw it. Maybe in NYC or NJ.