toned-down avatar as a fake CBI officer carrying out mock-raids across the country in Neeraj Pandey's Special 26 has gone down extremely well with the audience. The film is a certified hit. And now the producers Viacom 18 are keen to carry the heist-tale forward into not only a sequel but an ongoing franchise, a la Hollywood heist-brand Oceans 11/12...and so on.
The one who is most relieved and happy is director Neeraj Pandey who had his fingers crossed about the success of his second feature film. Says Neeraj, "There was less at stake in A Wednesday as it didn't feature any major stars. But Special 26 featured Akshay Kumar and we were anxious to see how audiences reacted to his character and performance. Fortunately audiences have embraced Akshay's unusual performance. All the actors were my first choices and I was glad that they agreed to be a part of this project. Though it took time I consider myself lucky. The response to the film has been very good."
About being accused of glorifying crime by showing the con-persons actually getting away with their derring-do, Neeraj is nonchalant. "I didn't make the film to serve up a moral lesson. I saw a terrific story there, a family entertainer. And as a somewhat responsible filmmaker, one shouldn't care too much for accusations as long as I know what I am doing."
Both of Neeraj's films so far have adapted the thriller format. But he now intends to change tracks. "I actually wanted to start my career with a love story. But then A Wednesday happened, now Special 26. I may go back to love now. I haven't decided."
Speaking of love, critics have uniformly panned the love story between Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal in Special 26. However Neeraj stands by it. "Critics might not have liked it. But I haven't come across a single viewer who has objected to it. There are certain changes that needed to be made in the original story. The ending, for example. We knew what the law enforcement agencies knew about the original character and his colleagues who pulled off these fake raids. The film takes liberties because the genre could afford. As a writer you want a story be engaging. It comes with the job."
And now the sequel is being given an added push. Apparently the booming production company Viacom 18 are keen to start the sequel at the earliest. Akshay too is willing to dole out the dates.
Says Neeraj, "I've left the ending open. We saw Akshay's character leave the country with his girl. It would now be interesting to see what happens to him and his colleagues. Let's see."