'9 Hours' is the latest Telugu-language web series in the town. In this review, we are going to talk about its hits and misses.
The series is a fictional story based on one of Malladi Venkata Krishna Murthy's novels written in the 1980s. As such, the story of the series is also set in the bygone era.
Three prisoners escape from the Central Jail in Hyderabad and hold a bank branch in Koti to ransom. They rob loads of money and before they can escape, the police department swings into action. Left with no choice, the robbers try their best to turn the situation to their advantage by threatening to kill the hostages in the bank should the police resort to any misadventure. This keeps the cops (led by Taraka Ratna's character) on the edge.
We soon learn that the robbers are the puppets of a top cop named Vishwanath (Vinod Kumar). So, there is a black sheep in the police department itself. Who has the last laugh? Can the lives of innocent civilians be saved? Will Vishwanath's conspiracy be nailed? Answers to these and many other questions are found as the story progresses.
Telugu-language web series are not known for mind-blowing performances. Judged purely by the prevailing standards, this series has got decent performances. Everyone looks quite involved. There is no hero as such. There is no heroine as such. At the same time, there is no one villain who is the Numero Uno antagonist.
The casting proves to be able, thanks to show-runner Krish Jagarlamudi. From likely choices (Taraka Ratna, Vinod Kumar and Banerjee playing cops) to unlikely ones (Ajay and Madhu Shalini have got worthy character arcs), from supporting performances (by Preethi Asrani, Ankith Koyya, Sameer and Raj Madiraju) to a few cliched acts (Ravi Varma, Jwala Koti), the series has a wide span.
This is strictly in the zone of average technical output. Shakthi Kanth Karthick's BGM is somewhat stock. Manojh Reddy's cinematography is functional. Rajkumar Gibson Talari's production design is able. Dharmendra Kakarla's editing is a mixed bag.
Since the series is based on a novel, we see character types aplenty. There is an arrogant cinema hero who finds himself insulted by the robbers. There is a young couple whose budding romance is snapped at the heels because of the hostage crisis. There is a married couple whose wedding anniversary falls apart right at the outset.
But the series overdoes quite a few things in the name of drama. The track of a lecherous bank employee sexually harassing a widow should have been narrated with some sensitivity. The track between Shritej (who played YSR and Chandrababu Naidu in two separate political films in recent times) and Monica Tavanam is conveniently written. The phone conversations between the robbers and the cops don't sound updated.
The non-linear narration is executed well. That said, '9 Hours' merely follows the well-established norms concerning the web series format. There is no novelty here.
Directors Jacob Verghese and Niranjan Kaushik should have adapted the scenes outside the bank in a believable fashion. The cops seem to find it hard to spot even obvious things.
Vinod Kumar's character is intriguing and so much drama could have been made out of it. As someone who is addicted to betting on racehorses, he plays an evil character facing an existential threat. The writing should have been way richer around him.
It becomes difficult to stay invested in the robbers and their concerns after a point, probably because of the lengthy run-time (more than 270 minutes). At times, the robbers seem to think alike and behave like they are all each other's clones. This is unnatural.
For a web series, '9 Hours' makes a sincere attempt at raising the bar. It is far from perfect. But it is still worth a watch.