Licence to Thrill


Ahead of the release of Special 26, director Neeraj Pandey talks about why he cast a star in the lead role in his thriller, and the love story that he is waiting to make.

I have a love story written and bound, lying in one of these cupboards, but it refuses to get made into a film," says Neeraj Pandey with obvious sarcasm, pointing towards the desk by the window in his spartan Andheri office. Whether this is a result of not being able to find a producer or him being typecast as a filmmaker keen on serious subjects and real-life incidents, the filmmaker won't say. However, he does accede that making a thriller can be challenging and, therefore, fun — enough for it to be his genre of choice for his 2008 directorial debut, A Wednesday!, as well as the film with which he marks his return, Special 26.

After A Wednesday! became a sleeper hit, also sweeping up many awards, one expected Pandey to leverage upon the success and make his next movie soon after. The director announced it too — a prequel to his debut. However, the plan was called off. "A prequel seemed like the most obvious option, and therefore, too convenient. This soon made me lose interest in the project," he explains. The director then chose to maintain a low profile — save his home production, Marathi film Taryanche Bait—until he announced Special 26 early last year.

Even as Pandey awaits the release of his second movie — scheduled to release on February 8 — one can't help but draw parallels between A Wednesday! and Special 26. They both derive from a true story — while the former is based on the train blasts of 2006, the latter uses the infamous heist of 1987 as inspiration, when conmen posed as CBI and robbed a prominent store of jewellery worth lakhs. However, the director clarifies that the Opera House incident alone does not form the basis of the movie — two more such incidents and a few fictional ones have been strung together.

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