Manoj Bajpai come in to the frame, run with your kid on shoulders, make horse tok-tok sound from your mouth, camera in front of his face, camera don’t cut. Other sequence, Akshay Kumar call Jimmy Shergill, Split screen, camera move non-stop, show Jimmy Shergill coming from one end, Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher from another. Another sequence, Manoj Bajpai meet the politician conned early on the film, cue multiple scenes together, move camera around Manoj Bajpai, Flashback interlaced, give a TV serial feel to it. Alright, let me mention at-least one more awkward moment, Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal sit by the beach, in the background put a computer/photoshop generated sea, make it look real tacky.
Those are certain occurrences where I feel the film stumbled. Or in the beginning there were two songs almost back to back. Neeraj Pandey’s new film “Special 26” isn’t great. It isn’t loaded with fine craftsmanship either. The movie itself shudders because of it’s not so aesthetic shooting method. There are certain cuts that are abrupt, there are certain sequences probably a short film maker cutting his short film on his MacBook would do. But what amazes me is how good the film still is.
Consider this, a man comes to your house, you know you are hiding illegal money in your house, he says he is a CBI officer with ferocious sense of authority. You are bound to be scared. The whole film is about this. And about real officers getting into the zone, but still they don’t know how to deal with it. Because there is no one who is ready to report. And there is no one who would want to come in the limelight.
The remarkable thing about this film is, in this film, when people run, they get tired. They can’t climb a wall that easily. They think they can’t be fooled, but they do get fooled. There exists a very understated sense of realism that stays underneath the surface of the film throughout. And that’s what works for the film. At times I felt a deft hand of a director with intense ability to handle something that whimsy could have lifted this film to grounds unbeatable. But I tend to excuse all of its inconsistencies for the real consistency this film holds along. It is very high in terms of substance.
The film also has a very subtle sense of humour when Anupam Kher counts his hoard of children, and by the end of the dialogue he quotes, “wo hamaare zamaane me TV nahin tha na” (we didn’t have TV in our time). Though I am not really sure if everyone will get all of them, but there are many. The most remarkable thing about this enterprise is surely the way it recreates 1987. Connaught place in 1987 must have looked like that. With those old 80′s, and when Mumbai was Bombay, Premiere Padmini were taxis. It isn’t true if I say that the film is without craft completely. A film in which the cat and the mouse in this game share chemistry among them gets bonus points from me, even if there is only one scene to explain it.
Also, a film gets brownie points from me, when it claims it is a thriller and there are no unnecessary action sequences. There is no eagerness to show cars flying and no excitement to see a bus exploding. But there exists an urgency to slap as soon as the time is right. There exists an inherent urge to show strength of conning, and it goes out of the window immediately one mistake that happens in between when the plan is about to kickstart and a possibility that the plan might just go flat. Let alone go flat, there exists a possibility that their con job could be caught, yet it must be a veteran con’s confidence and intelligence to use the situation in his favour as he finds a roadblock. There is something very assured about a man when he dons a fake mustache, wears a necktie and talks with utter humility and sternness of an officer.
In other parts of the film, it is, at times filled with so much urgency that certain sequences do go awry. It shows us again that Indian directors have to yet to learn that scenes with such tones need to be complete. Cuts should come at right places, if a scene can be done live, it is better done live without visual effects and CGI, and split screen is one of the poorest tools and must be used only when it is very necessary. Amidst all this, the film stays unpredictable. The screenplay continues to surprise and film stays pretty close to reality. The final heist is so small in terms of scale but so well done that it is tough to stay away from the screen. What goes right here is, instead of completely relying on tension and showing something huge, only to tremble ultimately, it instead chooses to be suspenseful and humorous. And the sequence is dealt with simplicity and focus, perhaps that’s why this film is good, but just not special, that it could be.