Special 26’s trailers prepare you for a fake versus real CBI heist set in the late 80s, but the name of the film itself doesn’t tell you much else, unless of course you watch the film. Then it is self-explanatory. Special 26 is a film wherein the plot thickens and turns, at its own pace of course.
Ajju aka AK Vardhan (Akshay Kumar) and his able partner in the CBI raids, PK Sharma (Anupam Kher) traverse all over India; political heads and wealthy businessman being their preferred targets to extract cash and valuables from. They could very well be the Con Bhais of India given their successful run at their CBI game.
Neeraj Pandey, the director of Special 26 makes sure that no element is amiss with regards the locations and backdrop, camera, props, costumes, background score (replete with Lijjat papad and Vicco ads) style, language and behaviour of the characters, who are ably cast. It does take you back in time to what seems like old world Bombay and Delhi today, and that itself makes for an interesting watch, save for the screenplay. The film sets out on an even pace, establishing its characters and the plot, or rather, cons at hand; but it feels stretched out, with only one case in point of how the con bhais conduct their fake raids and make their money in the politicos home. It’s not enough to withstand the whole premise of the CBI being the most feared government agency in India in the 80s. You get a glimpse of it, but you want to see more than just fake ceilings raining rupees or car seats stacked with currency that is extinct today and definitely more examples of how feared it was.
There’s a two-song romance, with some dialogue thrown in, between neighbours AK and Priya (Kajal Agarwal) who is all set to marry some Tukaram, never mind her “loving the neighbour” bit. The song Akshay sings in the film, Mujh Main Tu is well picturised against the Bombay skyline.
Things get exciting after the interval where the proverbial cat and mouse turns into CBI against CBI – which is which and who is real is the question. Waseem Khan (Manoj Bajpai), a CBI official, an honest family man who likes to drop his kid off to the school bus on his shoulders and also, reminds his wife to cover up with a dupatta. He gets involved in the case to hunt down the fake CBI with his team that includes police officer, Ranveer Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill) and his aide, Shanti (Divya Dutta).
There are some funny lines, despite the seriousness of it all, like “I want to do my country” and some terrible English faux pas’, which make for some light moments in the film.
Akshay is restrained and in character as the scamster and lover, with a spot-on 80s wardrobe and style adding to his performance. There’s no room for goofiness in this portrayal and he keeps you engaged with his terrific performance right till the end.
There is a splendid scene played out by Manoj and Anupam, which shows their calibre as tremendous performers. They play off each other superbly in the scene.
Kajal’s dialogue delivery is a bit off key and she doesn’t really add anything to the film with her enactment of Priya. Neeru Bajwa, a discovery of the late legend, Dev Anand, makes a special appearance in the film with a song as forgettable as her “comeback”.
On the whole, Special 26’s second half is a good watch, but that’s if you can sit through the languorous first part!