Another Victim of Style over Substance

Special 26 (Neeraj Pandey, 2013

There is no question that Akshay Kumar has never put more effort into his acting than in this movie, yet, his performance was nothing deserving of the lauding he has been getting from critics. It is an ‘ok’ performance, passable at best and sadly, he does not get the opportunity to experiment with it either because the character is so poorly written. The character of A.K. Vardhan may be the most boring and bland con-man ever written for film, but that is not Akki’s fault, it is clearly Pandey’s. In fact, none of the characters in this movie were even the least bit interesting, and the only thing that kept the train rolling here is the ultimate inevitable reveal of how they would dupe the CGI chief (an expressionless, one-note Manoj Bhajpai).

Pandey clearly thinks himself a director with a ‘signature style’, as many of the aesthetics etched out in A Wednesday somehow find themselves in this film too… from the slow motion head turns to the steady-cam “walk-and-talk” shots to split-frame action shots which anticipate a conjoining of two separate parties. Yet, while in A Wednesday this style amplified the narrative choices in the film; such as the pure suspense of motive (we were never sure what the “Common Man” was up to) and the clear distancing of the two parties (law enforcement and criminal never meet until the very end), Special 26 uses these for purely stylistic purposes and serve no greater means to the film other than to make it look ‘cool’. This is a sign of a filmmaker trying hard to be unique, but miscalculating his own intent.

I also don’t want to leave out the fact that the tonal inconsistencies in this movie were absolutely horrendous. The “romantic angle” for this was completely out of place and felt cringe-worthy and forced. It is very clear that Pandey took this extra piece on his plate hoping it would add to the film’s appeal, but instead it is the one thing that completely cripples the entire flow of the movie. The song sequences are also terribly shot and look cheap and cheesy. I think Pandey is pretty good when he is concentrating on the dissection of societal problems, the way he did in A Wednesday where he hazed the line between justice and hypocrisy on the part of the “Common Man”. Had Pandey skipped the love-crap altogether it may have bought him time to delve into the most important issue that lies within Special 26: That criminals think like cops better than cops think like criminals.


3 thoughts on “Another Victim of Style over Substance

  1. Why is it that in the entire damn web there is but one reviewer that sees this movie as what it is? Amateurishly made horrendously written plothole ridden overproduced populist shit helmed by someone whose overestimation of his own abilities rivals that of Tommy Wiseau. Just what is it with the slew of mainstream ‘critics’ (aka Rajiv masand, Anupama Chopra, fucking Sudish Kamath) labelling this movie as one with consistent and endearing characters? These are textbook examples of poorly/underwritten characters and don’t get me started about this movie’s pathetic attempt at humour. Why is it that these ‘critics’ can’t offer any opinion about movies that is more insightful than that of one of my buddies at the college canteen. You sir are among very few Indian critics whose understanding of cinema not only fucking exceeds that of an urban pleb but also rivals that of cinemating greats. Well now I guess the only critics that I need to keep up with to find out what’s worth watching in theatres (or since the majority of what I watch is foreign cinema, downloading/ buying on amazon) are you adam from yms (link: and a couple of critics(whose names escape me at the moment) who feature on rotten tomatoes. *Sigh* there is very little hope for Indian cinema when even those who can critique movies rationally are hard to come by. Well this entire rant may have come across to you as some randy jizzing all over the fact that his opinion got reaffirmed but well yeah I guess that’s exactly what has happened right now. Hope you get more recognition man (and make a movie or whatever). I’ll pimp you out to as many people as I can dude but I doubt it’s going to make any difference( film studies and engineering at the same time doesn’t leave much room for a social life). Peace out, besides I think my Tree Of Life download should have finished by now(I swear to buy the bluray okay shudupp)

    Okay on a completely unrelated note why the hell do you have gravity in your top 10 of 2013? Yeah it’s a technical masterpiece (what else would you expect from Emmanuel Lubezki-Alfonso Cuarón at this point ?) but is it nearly as emotionally resonant as his other works? Couldn’t the spot have gone to the brilliant Inside Llewyn Davis or Her? .I hate majority of Wes Anderson fare too by the way. Moonrise Kingdom was unbearable. Leave a reply if that’s your thing so that I know I’m not alone (if the site allows it .I have no idea if it does)

  2. Hey, thanks for sharing your thoughts. A few things I wanted to reply about:

    The problem with (mainstream) film criticism in India is that it’s completely dominated by people who really aren’t film critics… they’re film “reviewers”. They basically do a grocery shopping checklist of all things a particular movie has or doesn’t have. Good cinematography? Check. Good acting? Check. Is it funny? Check. Is it emotional? Check. And then they end with “Go see this movie now!” as if people need anybody dictating to them what movies they should and shouldn’t see. The worst is guys like Komal Nahata, who are basically open about being “trade analysts”… their interest in cinema goes nowhere beyond box-office numbers and if a movie has star actors and entertaining songs in it. And publication are stupid enough to call him a “film critic”. Film criticism should really be only about bringing up ideas to discuss with other people. It’s about peeling the layers off a film and seeing what’s inside.

    All hope is not lost though. If you really look hard enough, there are independent publications in India that have started to make some noise on criticism of Indian cinema. Check out these sites: (I myself write for this e-mag) (a great place for reviews, news of Indian art/indie-cinema) (probably India’s only good mainstream film critic)

    Also, checking out the independent film scene in India will probably help drain out some of the pessimism over the state of affairs of Indian cinema. Yes, mainstream cinema is a lost cause for now, but indie filmmakers like Anand Gandhi, Ashim Ahluwalia, Ritesh Batra, and others are starting to poke into the industry with some interesting movies. Again, I suggest you check out… they have great articles, news, updates on interesting Indian movies that are making film festival rounds and premiering at showcases in India itself.

    As far as “Gravity” is concerned, at the time I had made the list, I hadn’t watched a whole lot of 2013 movies, but after looking at it now, I may switch some of them out. “Her” definitely would make it now. I still haven’t seen “Inside Llewyn Davis” yet, which is unfortunate. I’ll try to though.


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