The creator Krish Jagarlamudi, directors Niranjan Kaushik and Jacob Verghese deliver a classy show that keeps you on your toes
Last Updated: 08.25 AM, Jun 02, 2022
A jailer Vishwanath, out of desperation to settle his debt amounting to Rs 20 lakh, gives a nod to one of the prisoners to execute a bank robbery, but there's a catch! The prisoners who pull off the heist must return to the jail before the roll-call. Will Vishwanath succeed in his secret mission? How would the robbery change the lives of the bank employees? Is Vishwanath being pranked?
Krish may probably be the only contemporary filmmaker who has used his license as a storyteller to reintroduce the vastness of Telugu literature to a new generation, convincing them to take pride in their cultural roots. From a Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum to a Kondapolam to a Gautamiputra Satakarni, one could genuinely sense a larger purpose behind his mainstream cinema attempts. He takes this idea forward to the digital audience too by backing the episodic adaptation of writer Malladi Venkata Krishna Murthy's famous novel Tommidi Gantalu.
Tommidi Gantalu, the novel, has all the ingredients to turn into a juicy show and 9 Hours makes good use of its source material and its enriching characters. It's hard to give a label to most of the characters - the show gives them the space to justify their motives. The periodic setting to a crime thriller adds another layer of intrigue to the viewing experience - it's good to slip back into a time when cops, journalists and criminals rely on strategy more than technology to get their work done.
The show alternates between two backdrops predominantly - the central jail and the bank. There's ample variety in the characterisation. There's a jailer who's more of a spoilt brat who loses money in gambling and takes help from a prisoner to bail him out of trouble. A CI and a journalist are on the verge of a divorce. A widowed woman is harassed by a male colleague at work. The bank manager is trying to wind up his day quickly before calling it a day. Two new joinees have the hots for one another. How does a bank robbery alter their lives?
The main challenge while executing a thriller in an episodic format is to do justice to the character establishment without compromising on the tension in the storytelling. Team 9 Hours maintains this balance well, keeps you on your toes and gives a good reason to invest in characters and their trauma despite their flaws. The show, with its crafty treatment, comes together like various pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Every character has a purpose behind their action.
Human behaviour is unpredictable in the hour of crisis and the show writers exhibit enough nuance in exploring these complexities and contradictions in this universe. A woman who's part of a bank robbery squad doesn't mind extending a helping hand to a bank employee facing sexual harassment from a colleague. A thug catches hold of a peon stealing money from the bank and doesn't confront him. The spoon-feeding is minimal and 9 Hours pushes its audience to think and connect the dots constantly.
9 Hours doesn't unlock all of its mysteries and a handful of threads remain intentionally unresolved to pave way for a second season. One can sense the immense coordination between the show directors Jacob Verghese and Niranjan Kaushik to bring seamlessness to their storytelling. Unlike most recent thrillers that don't give you enough time to absorb what's happening in the proceedings, 9 Hours doesn't merely hurry through the episodes for the sake of pace. There's a method to the madness.
The biggest surprise of 9 Hours is its unconventional casting, featuring young and experienced actors who mean business and showcase the hunger to prove themselves. Most of the performances are underplayed and toned down and the cast appears in complete control of its craft. Taraka Ratna is a revelation as a cop who doesn't know to draw a line between his personal and professional lives, while an assured Madhu Shalini is more than a handful as a journo who isn't afraid to talk the truth to power when necessary.
It's wonderful to see the experienced Vinod Kumar find his mojo again in a deliciously flawed role while Ajay as a shrewd prisoner proves yet again that there's more to him than the comedy villain stereotype. Ankith Koyya and Preethi Asrani are a breath of fresh air, while the likes of Shri Tej, Ravi Varma, Benarjee, Ravi Prakash and Suresh Kumar are aptly cast in brief, well-written parts. Jwala Koti's ruggedness is an asset to his performance while Monika Tavanam has a ravishing screen presence. Sameer as a star with airs, Gemini Suresh in the role of an envious co-actor and Chitram Seenu, who is the owner of a video shop, ensure a few laughs.
Technically, 9 Hours is second to none other in the Telugu web space, be it the cinematography, editing, production design or the background score. While the storytelling is very today in its vibe, the visual aesthetics transport you back to the 80s. Shaktikanth Karthick, one of the more underrated composers of our times, comes up with a masterly background score that's nostalgic and gripping at once- his terrific use of the saxophone is the cherry on the cake.
9 Hours is an extremely well-made web show that makes for an engrossing watch and respects its audience's intelligence. Taraka Ratna, Madhu Shalini, Ajay and Vinod Kumar steer the ship with fine performances and prove that all takes is one good story to bring the best out of them. Technically top-notch and smartly written, there's enough meat in it to make for a solid binge-watch.