If ‘A Wednesday’ intrigued you then ‘Special 26’ Neeraj Pandey’s second directorial effort will certainly grip you at the very least. The centre-point revolves around a team of con men pulling off a jewellery heist, an incident that is based on news headlines that widely reported the theft of a huge haul of gold from the stores of a renowned Jeweller. The gang of four apparently pulled off many small heists successfully prior to cottoning on to this big job.
Inspired as it is by true events, the film is set in 1987. The film opens with a team of CBI officers recruiting personnel for a special operation and then is followed by a raid on a ministerial bungalow. The Chief CBI officer Sharmaji (Anupam Kher) leads his team consisting of Ajay (Akshay Kumar) from Mumbai, Joginder (Rajesh Sharma) who belongs to Old Delhi and Iqbal (Kishore Kadam) from Jaipur, from the front, brooking no interruptions and even using a brutal hand when it’s deserving as is the case with the Minister’s P.A and the Minister himself who feel the sting of his palm when they try to question his credentials.
The raid is successful and a huge stash of illegal cash is confiscated. The team disperse and the police personnel called on to do duty during the raid Ranveer (Jimmy Shergill) and Shanti (Divya Dutta) have to face the brunt of the fall out once it’s discovered that it was a fake raid conducted by con men. The minister is incensed but doesn’t want the news of his illegal stash to be publicised so he is satisfied by the suspension of the two officers.
Enthused by their success the con men pull off a few more stunning raids before thinking of the big one. Neeraj Pandey treats us to a bit of their individual stories just so we know where they are coming from. Ajay is in love with his neighbour (Kajal Agarwal) but her father disproves and is all set to marry her off. Joginder has a joint family to take care of, Iqbal has a discontented wife and Sharmaji has an ever burgeoning passel of kids to contend with. It’s quite a cursory run through and doesn’t really justify what these four are doing. But that’s not much of an issue because the narrative focus is on their daring-do.
The guys pull off heist after heist until the CBI head, decides to put a full stop to it by enrolling CBI officer Waseem (Manoj Bajpayee) to beat them at their game. Waseem believes himself to be quite resourceful and manages to get his breakthrough when Ranveer provides him with the necessary info on the kingpin. So will he stop the four from pulling off their biggest heist yet is the question that is best answered by watching this riveting drama resplendent in simple thrills and smartly paced narrative tension.
The film’s cut-to-cut events keep the interest going and the focus on the quartet is magnified to such an extent that everything else is forgotten – even rational thought. As a filmmaker Neeraj Pandey’s skill has been enhanced considerably with this outing. His helming is confident and assured and like the con men at the centre of it all, is single-minded in achieving his goal of convincing the viewer that it is all possible.
Neeraj Pandey also manages to get sterling performances from the entire cast and that’s a great feat considering that he has Akshay Kumar to work with as a lead. This is in fact Akshay Kumar’s best effort to date even though he doesn’t have to do much but look the part and keep a straight face. Anupam Kher is effortlessly majestic. Rajesh Sharma, Kishore Kadam and Divya Dutta make their presence felt too. But the film surely belongs to two absolutely brilliant acts: Manoj Bajpayee as Waseem and Jimmy Shergill as Ranveer – without whose intensity and gravitas, this film would not have worked at all!