Neeraj Pandey’s first film, A Wednesday (2008), was about the terrorist as Everyman. His new film, Special Chabbis, is about the criminal con as Everyman. Based on a series of real incidents from the 1980s, Special Chabbis tells the story of a group of conmen who rob politicians and businessmen of vast amounts of money by masquerading as CBI or Income Tax officials. Until the real CBI gets on their case.
The team of tricksters is led by a youngish man called Aju (Akshay
Kumar) and an older man called Sharma-ji (Anupam Kher), with Rajesh
Sharma and Kishore Kadam bringing up the rear (ably enough, though one
dearly wishes both these stellar actors had more to do). Kher, for whom A Wednesday provided
an increasingly rare chance to return to the real acting he’s capable
of, is in top form again here, moving between smooth con and nervous old
man with utter credibility. Kumar delivers a competent—if
characteristically bland—performance, except when turning on that
infuriating beatific smile he seems to have perfected with his portrayal
of Krishna in 2012’s OMG Oh My God.
Jimmy Sheirgill and Divya Dutta make a rather fun police duo, but
again, one longs for them to have meatier roles. Manoj Bajpayee, as the
real CBI investigator who takes it upon himself to catch the
impersonators, makes the most of every little detail his character is
provided with. His Waseem Khan is acerbic and incorruptible, delivering
each line with a piercing gaze and a sense of timing that makes him a
Opening with a heist in Lutyen’s Delhi, moving on to Calcutta’s Burra
Bazaar and ending in Bombay’s Opera House, Pandey and editor Shree
Narayan Singh have crafted a fast-paced film that keeps us engaged most
of the time, though it does occasionally feel a bit thin on the
ground—and a little too buffetted by a relentless background score. The
sections that really jar are those in which we are spoonfed large doses
of a syrupy Kajal Aggarwal-Akshay Kumar romance—unnecessary, badly acted
and sugary enough to make you choke.
But the pleasures of Special Chabbis lie in the detail. The
film recreates the universe of late ‘80s India both visually and in
spirit, revelling in the production of a grimy Connaught Place pasted
with Only Vimal ads, romantic meetings at Bandra bus stops under the
once-familiar sign of Thril, hotel lobbies full of streaked marble and a
Delhi full of empty roads punctuated by an occasional light blue Maruti
800. Vaishnavi Reddy’s art direction and Sunil Babu’s production design
are attentive without being attention-seeking, almost entirely
successful in making us forget that the world we are watching on screen
has had to be artificially cleansed of the patina of the last 25 years.
This review continues.
Read the whole of it on Firstpost.com, here.