Director Neeraj Pandey’s ‘A Wednesday’ won awards and an instant fan following. His sophomore effort does not show the sharpness of his debut film. The primary flaw, compared to ‘A Wednesday’, is the over-stating of information and repetition of shots. So you see repeatedly see Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and their band of conmen marching down corridors. Equally, you see Manoj Bajpayee and his team of law enforcers also marching in formation, both to ear-shattering background music.
Further, after the first con has been shown in great detail, we are subjected to watching it two more times – albeit in black and white snapshots, just minutes after the first time you have seen it. Pandey, surprisingly, doubts the memory and intelligence of his audience by replaying recently seen events. He then adds insult to injury with a few superfluous songs, especially one Punjabi wedding song and another ballad.
Having stated the flaws of this heist film let’s move on to the plusses.
Special Chhabis is based on true events primarily a 1987 robbery at a Mumbai jewellery store by a group of men posing as government officials. Kumar is the mastermind. His teammates are Anupam Kher, Kishore Kadam and Rajesh Sharma. On the other hand is the upright CBI officer, Manoj Bajpayee. Bajpayee and Kher are electric on screen. Jimmy Sheirgill plays his part with respectable control. Akshay Kumar is stoic and furtive. But the love story between him and Kajal Agarwal is lame, at best.
Pandey gets some of the 80s detailing delectably right, eg the value of Rs 100, the desire for imported goods available only in Bombay, the Maruti 800 cars, the bus-stop advertising Thrill (the cola). There’s a great line when Bajpayee asks his boss if his raise and promotion are confirmed or should he start taking bribes. High on humour but a little low on suspense or the excitement of execution of a heist, my biggest issue was why Kumar and team needed to scapegoat the CBI to pull off their big theft. If the screenplay had lost the love story and songs, one may not have had the time to apply logic and liked the film more.