9 Hours review

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Tarakratna, Ajay, Vinod Kumar, Madhu Shalini, Ravi Varma and Preeti Asrani’s 9 Hours feels like a never-ending social drama rather than a crime thriller.

9 Hours, the Telugu web series which released on Disney + Hotstar on June 2, has well-known director Krish Jagarlamudi as its showrunner and writer and is adapted from the novel ‘Tommidi Gantalu’ by Malladi Venkata Krishna Murthy. The web series, set in 1985, begins with three prisoners breaking out from Central Jail and heading to the Deccan Imperial Bank to carry out a well-planned bank robbery. Yes, think of it as an 1980s desi ‘Money Heist’.

At the outset, this may seem like a straightforward plan but the twist is that the three prisoners need to be back in prison by the evening roll call. The bank is on its usual business day when the three men barge into the bank and take the employees and visitors hostage. The series is divided into nine episodes corresponding to the nine hours between the prisoners’ escape and time to return to their cells and as the story progresses we discover why they are compelled to commit this crime.

With every ticking hour – and thus every episode – we become privy to the backstories of some of the people in the bank – for instance, bank employee Girija, who has lost her husband, is constantly sexually harassed by her colleague; Suguna, a prostitute, is one of the robber’s girlfriend; Chandra Shekhar is a big movie star; and so on. Meanwhile, Circle Inspector Pratap (Tarakratna) happens to be in the bank’s locality to nab a video shop owner who makes porn films and when he discovers the bank being under siege, he jumps into action. This is when the story takes a serious turn and the chase to nab the robbers begins.

Now, one would expect a crime thriller to be written tightly with interesting elements and twists and turns in every episode keeping the audience at the edge of their seat. So does ‘9 Hours’ deliver on this front? Unfortunately, no. After watching the nine episodes, the web series feels like it was not just set in the 80s but also made in the 80s with cliched dialogues and narration style. The series is shot in mainly two locations – the central jail and the bank – and the shots cut between these two places to show us what is going on simultaneously at these locations. However, the show format and the way it has been shot reminds us more of a Telugu television series rather than a web series. And therein lies the problem. There are scenes that are overdramatised, others poorly written and unnecessary to the central plot and we end up feeling like it’s a never-ending social drama rather than a crime thriller. For instance, in the middle of this bank heist, we find there’s a possible romance and a rape scenario. These scenarios seem to be there to just add more masala to the series and don’t display efficient screenplay writing. Wayward plot points tend to dot the series and distract from the core theme sadly.

The series, produced by First Frame Entertainments, has a whole host of actors including Tarakratna, Ajay, Vinod Kumar, Madhu Shalini, Ravi Varma and Preeti Asrani. The casting is apt for this show and all of them have performed what was required of them. ‘9 Hours’ has been released in numerous languages including Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Tamil. This OTT series will be enjoyed by those who like desi television shows.

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