11th Hour
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Director: Praveen Sattaru

Cast: Tamannaah, Vamsi Krishna, Madhusudhan Rao

11th Hour is a thickly populated series for its kind. There are many characters that regularly show up throughout the first season. You can easily keep a track as to where the story is going, but would you sit through the arduous task of finding out whether Aratrika Reddy (Tamannaah Bhatia) wins the battle that takes place at a luxury hotel? She has snakes and rats all around her. Why, even her family members can’t be trusted!

Her father, Madhusudhan Reddy (Madhusudhan Rao), isn’t interested in letting her run the business because he’s a sexist who thinks that women can’t take over the reins. Madhusudhan also holds a degree in beating his wife. But he’s still not the main villain of the show. Well, it’s hard to point out who the black sheep is, since 11th Hour keeps stretching like a pandemic without providing a solution.

The entire season has been packed into a single night. And it effortlessly goes back and forth between the various time periods in which Aratrika and Madhusudhan initially come into contact with the other characters and their present state of turmoil. 11th Hour isn’t narrated in real-time, though. Despite the phone calls and plans that Aratrika makes, you don’t feel like she’s doing much. Her efforts to save the sinking ship are told via voice-overs, but her actions don’t swell with the necessary amount of mirth.

Sometimes, 11th Hour strictly feels like you’re watching pretty actors in pretty clothes. If this were a romantic comedy, maybe you could have kicked off your shoes and drowned in its raucous tamasha. But this is a thriller where the boss of a multi-crore company (think of a mini version of Reliance Industries) sprints from pillar to post to save her business before it dies a lonely death at the hands of a bank.

The ensemble cast that includes Jayaprakash, Pavithra Lokesh, Arun Adith, Srikanth Iyengar, Vamsi Krishna, and Shatru is terrific. But nobody is cast against their type here. Hence, as soon as they enter the screen, you know what they are there for. When a particular character, portrayed by a particular actor, gets Aratrika’s son kidnapped to cover up his monumental mistakes, you don’t wait, with your hand on your chest, for the culprit to be caught. You just sigh when Aratrika bends over backwards to find out who it is. Why does she take so much time to nab the criminal?

Likewise, if you are a daily consumer of Telugu films, you know that Krishna’s character can never be trusted – he’s a cobra in kitten’s clothing. There are a couple of nifty antagonists in 11th Hour and they all wear cool suits. It’s an eye-catchy drama, I’ll give them that. But why would that be enough? Lokesh, who plays Aratrika’s mother, is simply present as a woman who gets assaulted by the patriarch. And in the only place that she gets to say something to Aratrika, she talks about the importance of adjusting. She adds that it keeps the familial bonds intact.

Aratrika’s mother, perhaps, sees no other option. She’d rather suffer than leave her husband and go to a safe home. Aratrika doesn’t want to fall into the same trap. She doesn’t mind showing her husband the door when he cheats on her. If this angle had been fine-tuned, we could have, probably, gotten a series about a daughter who “saves” her mother. Oh, but, that’s not the intention of the makers. What then does Praveen Sattaru, the director who’s also helmed PSV Garuda Vega (2017) and Chandamama Kathalu (2014), want to convey?

The opening credits are meticulously designed—it shows a woman jumping into the vortex of a labyrinth. But the actual series doesn’t throw such wonderful thrills at you. It takes more time in making you understand the nature of business that Aratrika deals with. Of course, you need some hand-holding as 11th Hour talks about shareholders, nuclear power, bank loans, and red-tapism. Nonetheless, the lack of edge-of-the-seat twists might make you pull the curtains over the show before you reach the end.

There’s too much content on the web today and you can’t be blamed for not being able to sit through a series that tastes like a cup of sugarless cappuccino. Tamannaah’s sincerity, for once, hits a wall. She looks regally delightful in the series and her wardrobe choices add a great number of brownie points to her character. It’s surprising that 11th Hour isn’t an advertisement for a clothing brand. Unfortunately, though, the buck stops here and, maybe, from now on, directors should go the extra mile in hiding their villains behind unassuming faces.

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