Special 26: One of Akshay’s best performances!

Published: February 12, 2013

It will perform well on the box office if word of mouth is as good as in the case of A Wednesday. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Neeraj Pandey waited for three years after the release of his debut film so that he could release Special 26 (S26) with his first choice lead actor, Akshay Kumar.

Three years is a long time, but it also goes to show that Neeraj knew exactly what he wanted from the film and his characters, just like he did in case of ‘A Wednesday(AW). AW ended up bagging critical acclaim, several awards and also heavy box office collections for a low budget film.

This resulted in higher expectations from S26, especially when it had one of the biggest popular stars of current times, Akshay Kumar.

The success of AW was due to strong performances, unique storyline and exceptional directorial treatment, even though, personally I believe it was a good film but not a great film.

When going to watch S26 one would expect similar technical superiority and unique storyline from Neeraj; he delivers exactly that.

Again, a good film but not a great film.

S26 is based on a real life incident where more than two dozen robbers looted Mumbai Opera house in broad day light without using any weapons. It’s also India’s very own Ocean’s Eleven in a way.

Neeraj Pandey has shown glimpses of similar treatment as AW throughout the film; the use of split screen, witty dialogues, sound track full of percussions behind fast paced scenes, hints to the twists and so on. The toughest part for the team was to create a realistic looking 80s India. Showing the 70s is much easier and has been done to death – even by mediocre directors -but the 80s is more difficult and has not been done of late.

Neeraj and Vaishnavi Reddy have done a very good job at it. Showing only Suzuku Maruti 800 and Fiat on the roads, replication of the fashion of the 80s and the communist Calcutta were very detail driven especially given the fact that it was Reddy’s first film as an art director.

Where did he fall short, if I may say so, is overdoing the wide angle shots which looked phenomenal at the start, but became a pain towards the second half of the movie. The super slow motion running shots were excessive. Neeraj also relied heavily on Chroma for showing the 80s India to the extent that it started looking too artificial.

To add insult to the injury, the lip sync was totally out for more than one third of the film! Maybe this was just on the copy I had – I am not sure, but it was off putting nonetheless.

One major short fall, that I noticed, was the romantic track of the protagonist. It was neither necessary nor did it add any value to the film. Neeraj did not look comfortable in handling the small love story as a sub plot and there was nothing unique about the age-old build up and lack of chemistry between the pair.

If anything, he could have added some eccentricity to this side track to make it more interesting, or could have avoided it completely.

I also felt as though Kajal Aggarwal’s role had no meat in it and, thus, her performance cannot be judged at all.

S26 relies heavily on the actors and that’s where it excels just like AW did.

When was the last time you remember seeing Anupam Kher in a meaningful role?

Probably, Neeraj’s AW or Dibakar’s Khosla Ka Ghosla.

It was long overdue for Bollywood to make use of his talent.

Anupam Kher responded really well to the call; his interrogation scene with Manoj Bajpayee was a piece of art.

Jimmy Shergill is also one of the more underutilised actors. He has a smallish role, similar to his cameos in Munna Bhai’s and he seems extremely comfortable in playing those cameos.

Manoj Bajpayee has come up with yet another strong performance after Gangs of Wasseypur. In GOW he showed his animalistic side while in S26 he is totally in control with enormous screen presence even in presence of Akshay and Anupam Kher.

If I have to pick top 10 Indian actors of all time, Manoj will definitely be one of them! His small scenes with his wife are brilliant and his catharsis towards the climax is excellent.

Then there is Akshay Kumar. Throughout the year, this actor kept feeding the audience with ridiculous films like Rowdy Rathore and Khiladi 786 and then there is an occasional OMG or S26.

The problem is that the audience doesn’t know which Akshay Kumar movie to watch or not; his roles and performances are so confusing and there is no consistency. However, when there is a movie like S26, the hardcore loyal Akshay masses will not go for it because they will not expect him to crush cars with his kicks and punches.

The more serious film watchers will be reluctant to go for it because they will expect another Rowdy Rathore from him.

That’s the price an actor has to pay for his choice of movies.

Akshay has done well in S26 – there is no doubt about it and it, and I believe that it is one of his best performances ever.

His relationship with Anupam Kher is highlight of the film. He underplayed his part much like Nana Patekar or Ajay Devgan of 90s would have done. The problem is that in his next film, Akshay will be performing over the top stunts in all seriousness, pretending as if he is still creating art.

This is very disappointing for the viewer and I wish he would showcase his real talent more often.

S26 is similar to AW in many ways. At times it was over simplistic creating disbelief in the viewers’ minds. However, it should be enjoyed for its unique storyline and strong performances.

It will perform well on the box office if word of mouth is as good as in the case of AW. Neeraj Pandey, however, has to rethink his approach for the next few movies even if S26 is success.

After all, we don’t want another Kabir Khan!


Read more by Sami here, or follow him on Twitter @SamiSaayer


Sami Saayer

A Dubai based Pakistani looking for excuses to write.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.kabacreations.com Vishnu Dutta

    Great review. Always wait for your reviews.

    Though in this one you talked less about the movie and more about the personal lives of the characters but it still manages to give fair idea about the movie.Recommend

  • Historian 1

    The script has blunder. Two CBI informants inside S26 did nothing when anupam kher left the bus on the way to opera. Why?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice review………gives one a good idea as to what to expect.Recommend

  • dattaraj kulkarni

    to historian 1

    dat means u didnt understand the plot…no use then…
    The plot was to recruit stupid 26 people only….
    Hence if u carefully see the selected 26 people, u will know.
    For eg 2 CBI informants were stupid in d first place (if u recall manoj bajpayee had interoggated dem earlier on how was d selection,etc etc they both idiots said i m d best…i m d best..also there were no mobiles in their era…1980’s….Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Excellent review, and very strong background knowledge of contemporary Hindi cinema. Good stuff!Recommend

  • gp65

    I always look forward to your reviews. Tells me what to expect without giving the story away.

    As far as Manoj Bajpayee being one of the 10 best actors of all time in Bollywood? I am curious who are the remaining 9 for you. My list is Sanjeev Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Smita PAtil, Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bacchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Amir Khan, Naseeruddin Shah and Nutan.Recommend

  • http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/1695142/ayesha_pervez.html Ayesha PErvez

    Ap kia sare din movies hi dekhte rehte ho? O-oRecommend

  • Historian 1

    another blunder in the plot: why manoj wajpai didnt record the conversation with anupam kher during his interrogation in the hotel. when anupam kher admitted for carrying out 49 robberies, wajpai could have immediately taken him into custody. there was no need to stage the opera house robbery.Recommend

  • http://theindusripple.blogspot.com Mohammad Jibran Nasir

    “To add insult to the injury, the lip sync was totally out for more than one third of the film! Maybe this was just on the copy I had”

    With due respect, be sincere to cinema and movies by not encouraging piracy. I would have understood you going for a pirated dvd if S26 was not released in Pakistani Cinemas.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Brilliant top 10! I would probably replace Shashi Kapoor (who admittedly had flashes of brilliance along with several pedestrian performances) with Raj Kapoor or Guru Dutt, but everyone on your list deserves to be there. If you were to look at 5 male and 5 female actors for the list, I would replace Shashi Kapoor with Nargis.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/908/erum-naqvi/ Erum Fatima

    i loved the movie & akshay’s performance!! Recommend

  • gp65

    @BlackJack: Yep Guru dutt and Nargis are both brilliant indeed and could take Shashi Kapoor’s spot. Raj Kapoor though tended to caricature himself just like Shah Rukh. In fact Waheeda Rehman could also replace Shashi. Choosing just 10 is indeed difficult. It’s like trying to choose top 10 songs filmed on Rajesh Khana or top 10 songs of RD. Burman – almost impossible to do.

    During the 70s and early 80s, Shashi did accept many low class movies to capitalise on a ‘good period’ after having had little success throughout 60s. But I feel that though the movie might have been silly – he was not. He has also performed a very diverse set of roles and I feel that while both his brothers were more successful, he was the better actor.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Other than the Chaplinesque influence that appears in several films which people complain about, there was nothing in Raj Kapoor’s acting to be denigrated as a caricature; I assume you feel the same way about Chaplin as well? Shahrukh Khan hams his scenes (emotional/ humorous – everything other than the deadpan look that he managed in Chak de!), and comparing Raj Kapoor to him is frankly quite an insult. Raj Kapoor’s performance and intensity in movies like Awara, Anari, Chori Chori, Jaagte Raho and Boot Polish are incomparable; Shashi Kapoor may have had talent (and acted in more movies), but there is far less material out there to showcase it. I agree that Waheeda Rehman is another possible addition/ replacement in the list.Recommend

  • Amit

    @blackjack and @gp65.. talking of top 10 actors, what about Om Puri and Pankaj KapurRecommend

  • Krack jack

    My top 10 bollywood greatest goes like this:
    John Abraham,Ravi kishan,Suniel shetty,Imran khan,Abhishek bachchan,Bobby deol,Tushar Kapoor,Irfan khan,Katrina Kaif.For last spot it’s draw between Salman and Kamaal Khan.Recommend

  • gp65

    Restricting to top 10 only is difficult but definitely Om Puri is one of the best actors we have had although I would not put Pankaj Kapur in that category but since we are including character actors – how can one forget Pran? Credible as the debonair villain with a hat and wicked smile and also the Pathan with a heart of gold as also Michael who drinks daru and creates danga. I also noticed that my age reflected in my choices but if the list were to be of top 20 then perhaps Kajol, Rani, Vidya, Ranbir Kapoor and of course Kamal Hassan would also be part of my list.Recommend

  • Iceman

    There was no problem with the lipsync except in a couple of scenes which I think were due to the last minute changes to the script/screenplay. The super slow motion was not overdone. What I didn’t like was Waseem Khan giving up the search so easily after knowing that the Opera House has been robbed. His character is shown as super-smart initially. Of course, he made mistakes. He realized it immediately when he came to know within 30 mins of the robbery. He could have called for cordening-off of the area and sending the look-out notice at all the airports/stations/naka since they now knew the faces as well. It was brilliantly made otherwise.Recommend

  • S. Radha Krishnan

    Though i was not disappointed with the Special 26 after enjoying A Wedensday, i thought Special 26 could have avoided some flaws. For instance, if the police inspector along with his assistant was fake from the beginning, what was he doing in the CBI office pressing his complaint against the four? To pull off a dramatic ending, the film should not have depended on the fake inspector, who has no business hanging around with the original CBI team plotting to trap the theives. Recommend