Few films in Bollywood, even today, rely wholly and solely on the strength of their plot to be entertainers. Special 26 is definitely one of them.
The film, set in 1987, is based on the true story of heist events in India. Akshay Kumar (Ajay) and Anupam Kher (P.K. Sharma) are part of a gang of robbers who conduct huge robberies by posing, very intelligently, as officers from India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (equivalent to Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency). The film begins with them conducting a raid at a politician’s house in Delhi, who refuses to launch an FIR against them for fear of publicizing his own corruption. But a policeman Ranvir Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill), who had been duped by them into believing their identities and has been suspended consequently, refuses to let go until the gang is put behind bars. He approaches the actual CBI and manages to get help from officer Waseem (Manoj Bajpai) and his team to help nail the robbers. Thus begins a great game of cat and mouse, and a thoroughly entertaining and unpredictable one at that.
While Akshay Kumar has done an absolutely brilliant job and Manoj Bajpai has brought a lot into his role, the star of the film is, undoubtedly, Anupam Kher. Like a master, he switches his body language and facial expressions between his two roles as a somewhat-scared old thief and a trained, albeit fake, CBI officer. Director Neeraj Pandey has also established his credentials as a versatile filmmaker as Special 26 is completely different, but no less fantastic, than his debut film A Wednesday.
Special 26, however, isn’t without some weaknesses and tends to become a little bit of a drag. It could have benefited from doing away with the entirely superfluous love story between Akshay Kumar and his ladylove (a girl who lives across from his building in Bombay). Not only did this love track not add anything to the plot, it produces barely average songs which are filmed in full (!!). Even commercial Bollywood films seem to have arrived at the conclusion that full songs don’t have to be included in the film.
Verdict: It is a great film for a light night out. Performances by Kumar, Kher and Bajpai are well worth the time and the plot will keep you engaged right till the end.