This could be Indian cinema’s The Queen’s Gambit. Ha ha, chess kidding.
But seriously, I can’t recall many movies in India based on the game of chess. Combining the theme of terrorism with the game of chess could be seen as an audacious game-plan for any filmmaker.
Writer-director Chandra Shekhar Yeleti pulls it off. Just about. A major reason why Check works is we are never expected to take the outrageous plot seriously. What we are given is a plot that brims over with incredible twists and turns all woven together in a narration that is high on adrenaline.
It starts with Nitthiin (in a far cry from his utterly juvenile rom-com romp in Rang De seen recently) being brought to the death row for terror activities.Lawyer Rakul Preet Singh(looking as much like a lawyer as Nithiin looks a terrorist) convinced of Aditya’s guilt, fights his case until she begins to believe in his innocence. Aditya’s acumen at chess helps him get some reprieve from his death sentence.
Nithiin doesn’t hesitate in showing the character as vulnerable and frightened.
It is to the writer-director’s credit that he never lets the interest-level flag. Nor do the improbabilities swamp and smother the narrative. Rather , there is a constant effort to keep the audience engaged ,as Aditya , in all innocence, goes from one zone of adventure to another, first as a convict then as a chess champ and finally as an innocent man trying to play his way out of sure death.
Check is quite obviously a vehicle to allow its leading man a chance to showcase his acting chops.With that innocent face and disarming smile Nithiin hits home runs one after another as he gets taken for ride by the girl(Priya Prakask Varrier) who looks nothing like a closet terrorist.
The endeavour to prove a terrorist innocent reminded me of The Mauritanian where Tahar Rahim had played the terror-accused . Nithiin lacks the emotional depth to carry the role to its dark interiors. At the end he emerges battered buised but somehow triumphant. The storytelling is constantly searching for tricks to titivate the drama. Most of them work.
Other than Nithiin , it is veteran Srimannarayana who as an imprisoned chess champ serves as the hero’s mentor guide and liberator. The film has some interesting ideas on the precincts of freedom . Not keen on exploring those , Check is content skimming the surface for thrills until we reach the grand climax where Nitthin’s Aditya plays with , ahem,Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand.
I almost expected the real chess champ to show up. Instead they have a lookalike who gives the mood a tacky tilt. But that’s okay. None of this is serious. None of it tries to be anything but entertainment. Lack of pretension and a surfeit of plotting stealth make Check worth checking out.
Image source: IMDb