Special Chabbis – The Hype Doesn't Help

special chabbisThe story is quite interesting, though it is not particularly original.

The script is excellent, with small touches that elevate.

The direction is just above mediocre, and does the script a great disservice.

The confounding thing about Special Chabbis (Special 26) is that the story, script, and direction are all in the hands of the same person–Neeraj Pandey–who distinguished himself with A Wednesday, one of the finest thrillers to come out of Bollywood.

Pandey won the Indira Gandhi award for Best First Film of a Director for that gem, and there are moments in Chabbis that justify that praise. But overall, this heist thriller in the mold of Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job does not live up to its pre- and post-release hype.

I wonder if the clue to that disappointment lies in the numerous entities that seemed to be involved with the film – the production acknowledgments run longer than the credits. Was the director pressured to add songs, dances, and a pulsating background score that often detracts from the on-screen action by its inappropriateness? It seems unnecessary, since the crisply edited, songless A Wednesday was such a commercial and critical success.

No matter what the reason, Chabbis is bloated with the trappings of Bollywood – the sangeet, the dream sequence, the judaai song – which add at least 30-40 minutes of unnecessary running time. Yes, it is important to have character development, but that can be done without pandering to the front-seaters – witness how beautifully (and economically) Rani Mukherjee’s character was sculpted in Talaash. And what’s unforgivable is that those extra minutes could have been used to close the gaping holes in the plot, some of which are wide enough to drive a barred police van through.

What saves Chabbis is its terrific script  and its capable cast. This is probably Anupam Kher’s best role in a long, long time – the movie is worth watching just for his role as an ordinary man living an extraordinary secret life. Manoj Bajpayee as a dashing CBI officer is great as ever, and even Akshay Kumar steps up his performance in the company of these masters. There are many delicious morsels of dialogue that will stay with you long after the movie is done and will give the movie longevity both at the box office and on DVD.

Despite its letdowns, Chabbis is worth watching… just go in with realistic expectations, not with the shadow of A Wednesday hovering over the experience. And take the kids, if you want…this is a pretty clean and fun film.

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