Marking his return on a Friday

Low Profile
Last Updated 16 January 2013, 15:31 IST

If you have seen Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday, it can be said with a reasonable amount of certainty that you would not have forgotten it. Chances are you loved it too. So without a doubt, you are then looking forward to the release of his next, Special 26 coming up on February 8.

Are the expectations creating pressure? “Why? No.” replies Neeraj. “A film is a byproduct of many moments when you are not thinking of too many things. I am aware of the expectations but frankly, there is no pressure. I was more worried during A Wednesday because one did not know anyone or anything. Today, there is everything.”   

That ‘everything’ also consists of a very refined star cast, including Akshay Kumar in the lead - an actor who is now leaving his stamp on virtually every role. Be it Rowdy Rathore or OMG! Oh My God, Akshay is repeatedly proving his mettle. But how does he fit in a film like Special 26?

“This role goes against his image. There is no point casting an actor who has already done something similar, while Akshay brings an inherent freshness. He is not a negative, negative character here. He is a very confident artist in the film, and the film itself is very unapologetic in its tone. There is no back story which justifies his actions.He just is and, amazingly restrained. It is a role which required internalisation to pull off the job (the heist that Akshay along with 26 others pulls off) - an anti-casting kind of a thing.”

The film revolves around a real-life heist in 1987where 26 conmen posing as CBI officers in a fake raid on a Bombay (back then) showroom, walked off with cash and jewellery worth lakhs. “It was a case which stayed with me. More than anything, it was the confidence of this one man which struck me.”

Though the actual case was confined to Mumbai, here the action moves from Delhi to Chandigarh to Kolkata to finally Mumbai. 

The film also features an ensemble and very talented cast of Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Shergill along with Kajal Aggarwal (who has done several films down South) and the highly underrated Divya Dutta.

“One of the most important things was to have a ‘nice’ mix of actors - I am using the word ‘nice’ here. The idea was to bring together actors who can spur each other on. I needed people who would not feel insecure with each other. That was very important.”

Special 26 is not strictly a period film even though set in a certain time and space. “In terms of scale and time, pre-production took up a lot of time. One worked closely with props and costumes but it is not an in-your-face period film. It’s real, set in ’87 but not everyone in ‘87 sported sideburns or wore bell bottoms.” 

Given Neeraj’s proclivity for meticulous detail, there is little doubt that Special 26 will indeed be special. But whether it will go A Wednesday’s way is something that will only be revealed with time.  Thriller, anyone?

(Published 16 January 2013, 15:31 IST)

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