Director: Chandra Sekhar Yeleti
When Aditya (Nithiin), a terrorist according to the police and the court, shouts that he's innocent in the opening scene, we believe his tearful appeal. After all, the protagonist of a Telugu film cannot be a terrorist. Even if he's a terrorist, he'll be a man with a heart of gold. Aditya, here, is neither. He's quite typically a conman who knows how to make a quick buck. But this part of the story shows up later and, in the meanwhile, director Chandra Sekhar Yeleti sets up the board for the rest of the characters and the conflicts to fall into place.
It's a straightforward tale for Chandra Sekhar Yeleti, considering he's the man behind Aithe and Anukokunda Oka Roju. Aditya learns to play chess in prison with the help of his mentor Srimannarayana (Sai Chand). In the beginning, for instance, he can't even tell the difference between the bishop and knight. Srimannarayana carefully explains the importance of each piece.
In a matter of minutes, Aditya becomes a pro. It may have taken him a few weeks, or a few months, to understand the nuts-and-bolts of the game. But the film doesn't take us through the passage of time. We don't know if it's summer or winter in prison. We don't know if India lost a match in the cricket world cup, or if Baahubali took the world by storm. In comparison, Krack, which released last month, painted the landscape of time through film posters. It pretty much gave us a sense of what was happening in the region around that time.
Though this isn't a big problem, it gnaws at the very idea of realistic cinema. Check isn't set in a fantasy land. And its hero isn't an extraordinary gentleman. Yes, he has the strength to beat up half-a-dozen goons at once, but that doesn't make this film larger than what it really is. In fact, the action scenes pull the narrative down. It's not because of lack of ingenuity in the stunt choreography — it's just that the movie would have been cleaner and crisper without those quintessential fight scenes.
If Chandra Sekhar Yeleti had removed all the scenes where Aditya's foes bully him, Check would have ended up a better film. Also, there's another major thing that doesn't sit well with the film's mood — it tries to push the format in different directions, and fails.
New characters whose motivations are either black or white pop up as Check progresses. For a hero with a high IQ, Aditya should have been surrounded by a bunch of intelligent people, not buffoons. Aditya doesn't fight the system, like Surya Prakash (Allari Naresh) in Naandhi. He fights to prove something else altogether and that's exactly what the whole movie should have been about.
Aditya seems to befriend people in a snap. He nonchalantly walks up to a woman he's been 'shadowing' for a while and asks her if she wants to join hands with him. This is a great Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal moment, where the man and woman work in tandem to increase their source of income. It's a clever and hilarious scene that could have been stretched for a couple of more minutes. Likewise, when he uses pickup lines to smooth-talk his way into Yatra's (Priya Prakash Varrier) life, it appears too good to be true.
Random scenes such as this that make up the flashback portion, which he lays bare to his advocate Manasa (Rakul Preet Singh), establish the kind of jovial person Aditya is. But beyond these bits, we don't see him anywhere with a smile.
Also, we don't usually see criminals in Indian cinema speak about their activities in professional terms. Aditya, on the other hand, knows what it means to be a white-collar criminal. If Georgekutty (Mohanlal) in the Drishyam series learns how to make a corpse vanish without a trace by watching films, Aditya learns how to make money by observing the people and opportunities around him.
Even without a formal education, these two men are equipped with the necessary skills to go to any extent to get what they want. They make merry as they're always a step ahead of their opponents. That way, Check is a niche thriller where the closing act is the best, akin to the winning 'Checkmate' in chess. It takes a rough road to reach there and, truth be told, there are warts. But the film relies on the power of its conviction. The underlying message is that jails also brim with criminals who have various talents. Can we extend the courtesy of reforming them by giving them a chance to let their creativity shine?