Licence to Thrill


Ahead of the release of Special 26, director Neeraj Pandey talks about why he cast a star in the lead role, and the love story 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, pointing towards a desk in his spartan office in Andheri, Mumbai. Whether this is a result of not being able to find a producer or him being typecast as a filmmaker keen on serious subjects, 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 make his next movie soon after. The director announced it too — a prequel. However, the plan was called off. "A prequel seemed like the most obvious option, and therefore, too convenient," he explains. He then chose to maintain a low profile — save his home production, Marathi film Taryanche Bait—until he announced Special 26 in 2012.

Now, even as Pandey awaits its 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. Another factor which A Wednesday! has in common with Special 26 is that Pandey has Anupam Kher and Jimmy Shergill playing key parts in both.

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