Special 26: One of Akshay's best performances!
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!
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