The film is inspired by the real life 1987 Tribuvandas Bhimji Zaveri Jewel heist where a middle-aged conman had posed as an Income Tax Officer staging a raid with 28 'newly recruited' officers who were told that they were doing a mock-raid as a part of their training. The thief, who called himself Monsingh disappeared with the Jewellery and was never caught. To date, this is said to be an 'unsolved mystery'.
While picturizing a single event would have looked like a documentary, the writers have added more meat to the film through events and developing each of the key characters, presenting most aspects of their lives, love interests, family, etc., Sure, the storytelling has repeated shots of people walking or driving for dramatic effect, which gets tiresome after a point. But then, the story doesn't lose pace.
The first scene shows a walk-in interview to recruit CBI Officers. Cut to flashback, Ajay Singh (Akshay Kumar), PK Sharma (Anupam Kher) along with Joginer & Iqubal are seen raiding a Minister's house in Delhi assisted by a cop Ranvir Singh (Jimmy Shergill). After they have recovered lakhs, it is revealed that the four men posing as CBI officers are actually fakes. The four soon disappear into the crowd with the loot.
Fearing loss of face, the minister refuses to lodge a complaint, much like most of their earlier victims. It is revealed that the conmen use the fear of law to loot black money whose owners would never want the public to know that they had it in the first place. Soon, the news of the loot reaches the real CBI where Wasim Khan (Manoj Bajpai) is tasked with finding them. He is helped by the now-suspended cop Ranbir Singh.
What follows is a very interesting chase across cities, peppered with the right dose of comic lines delivered at the right time. In a way, the movie reminds you of Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio starrer 'Catch Me If You Can' and the famous 'Ocean' series and packs in adequate drama. Although many Bollywood filmmakers have heist flicks before, only a rare few could get the formula right and 'Special Chabbis' is a good one!
Some may argue that the film surely has a moral dilemma angle to it. One, that it makes heroes out of conmen. But the other argument would be that the people they robbed were bad anyway. The weakest link is probably the love track which rather delays the film, and some repeated footage that could've been avoided.
On acting, the best among them is Anupam Kher who plays the greedy old man, which is closely followed by a predictably good performer in Manoj Bajpai and Akshay Kumar demonstrating that he hasn't forgotten acting. Kajal Aggarwal, as Akshay Kumar's love interest, at best is a pretty distraction and hardly has much to do. Jimmy Shergill as the cop and Divya Dutta who plays his assistant perfectly fit their roles too.
The single biggest achievement in the film, is its production design: portrayal of 1980's India with traffic free roads, no cell phones, no modern cars, etc. And this had to be repeated for all the cities that the story is depicted in. The best of such scenes is an overhead shot of Delhi's Connaught Place which zooms down to Manoj Bajpai riding a scooter. There are some other scenes that are tacky, but can be pardoned.
Take my advice and don't wait for it to come on TV. With tons of advertisements to interrupt the show, the chase drama would lose its charm. For all the good screenplay, intelligent dialog, occasional humor and some twists, make sure that you don't miss 'Special Chabbis', what many believe is the Indian answer to Ocean's series!
Rating 8/10: Heist movies have come of age in Bollywood!