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‘Check’ Director Chandra Shekhar Yeleti Says Shooting During the Covid-19 Pandemic Was the Biggest Challenge 

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Still from 'Check'

The teaser of Check, the upcoming Telugu thriller film starring Nithiin, Rakul Preet Singh and Priya Varrier, was released on Saturday.

In a conversation with Silverscreen India, the film’s director Chandra Sekhar Yeleti talks about how shooting the film during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic was the biggest challenge he faced.

Check revolves around the protagonist (played by Nithiin), who is imprisoned after being falsely accused of crimes he did not commit and eventually learns to play chess in prison. While Singh plays the role of his lawyer, Varrier plays a prominent role in a flashback sequence.

Talking about how he had come up with a “faint storyline” of Check more than five years back, Yeleti said, “I had a story about how a very talented person will be facing death row, but I did not have a prison set-up or chess in mind. But I always had that he would be talented in a craft. As I began to work on the film, the idea of prison and chess fell into place.”

The filmmaker said that the idea of bringing chess into the storyline came through his visits to prisons, where he came across talented prisoners.

“The character in the film has a high IQ level but he was born poor. The film brings in the question of what happens when a highly intelligent person puts his intelligence in wrong ways,” Yeleti said.

The filmmaker said that Nithiin was trained by professional chess coaches to learn the game’s basic moves.

Yeleti visited prisons in Hyderabad, Vizag, and Punjab to study its features and understand prisoners. He said that he observed prisoners’ behaviour, which helped him to write a particular scene.

“There is a scene where Rakul visits the jail and one of the prisoners tries to pull and kiss her amid the beefed-up security. For that, studying prisoners behaviour helped,” he said.

The film’s shooting commenced in August 2020 and was completed in November. While Check was shot in Hyderabad, most of it was shot within sets, Yeleti said, adding that the while shooting amid the ongoing pandemic was challenging, it helped him get a new experience.

“We had started to shoot after the lockdown was lifted and we had to ensure that whoever was on the set get tested [for Covid-19] in the morning. Even I got tested three to four times during the schedule. There were at least around 150 members in the set always, so we had to keep in mind the protocols, since it was our duty to take care of the whole unit,” said the filmmaker.

He said he had to re-visualise some scenes due to the pandemic to avoid crowds.

Check is produced by V Anand Prasad, under the Bhavya Creations banner, and music is composed by Kalyani Malik. The production designer is Vivek Annamalai, who has previously worked with entertainment giants Warner Bros and Walt Disney.

Talking about designing the prison sets, Vivek said that the team undertook a rigorous task as the film traverses through several years, which the sets had to depict.

“We wanted to show the transition of time through the sets, from the time of the hero’s arrest to him being shifted to barracks and solitary [confinement]. We visited prisons across India to study the security pattern, prison walls and understand the space design, spoke to jailors and observed abandoned places to see why they were not used,” he said, adding that the team visited several prisons in March 2019.

Vivek, who has previously worked as an architect, said that the trips helped him understand the psychological behavioural pattern of prisoners in a high security environment.

Attention was paid to designing the walls of the sets, he said.

“Dust accumulation, fungal formation, porous and dampness in walls, change in colour due to seasons and physical proximity of people, were studied to understand the look of the walls. About 21 days of training was given to painters to understand how the walls of prisons look,” Vivek said.

While around 80-85 people worked for 18 months to construct the sets, Vivek said that sets sprawled over 58 acres. He added that the team was keen on reusing materials, like wood, to ensure sustainability of the sets.

Though the film’s release date has not yet been confirmed, Yeleti said, “The producers have to take the call since it is a pandemic. They should be able to assess when is the right time to release and when people would feel comfortable to visit theatres. The film will most probably be a theatrical release, but nothing is confirmed and most of the filmmakers are waiting to know how the situation unfolds. A few films are releasing for Pongal and we will get an idea of how people are responding to it.”

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