LUDO (2020)

Sanya Malhotra as Shruti and Aditya Roy Kapoor as Akash in a still from Ludo
  • Release Date: 12/11/2020
  • Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Anurag Basu
  • Director: Anurag Basu

Goofy, charming, hilarious! Anurag Basu’s foray into dark-comedic anthology is a treat that shouldn’t be missed

Ludo is director Anurag Basu’s ambitious foray into a genre that is seldom approached in popular Bollywood films. Basu throws caution to the winds and tries his hand at a dark comedic interrelated anthology that not only needed to make complete sense but also had to get the audiences hooked from the beginning. The fact that the roster of stars here was sizeable also made the matter that much complicated. After a failure like Jagga Jasoos, it must not have been easy for Anurag Basu to go for a genre that had such niche appeal and hope to make an impact that was sizeable enough to get every stratum of the audiences interested to go for his film. The only thing in his favor was that Ludo was released on Netflix and that in many ways eased the financial risks on him and also gave him a much easier breathing space in terms of content, runtime, layout, and the subject matter.

Ludo has a number of different stories running parallel to each other. Even though I used the word parallel, I must admit that these stories keep crisscrossing each other’s path leading to some interesting results. Akash Chauhan (Aditya Roy Kapoor) earns his living by doing standup comedy and voiceovers. He is shocked to find his sex tape with his somewhat girlfriend, Shruti Choksi (Sanya Malhotra) on the internet one day. Shruti is due to get married in the next five days and hence Akash decides to somehow take down the clip from the internet. The only problem is that he cannot do it alone and his options of doing it legally are fast running out. Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan) was a henchman for the local don, Sattu (Pankaj Tripathi). He fell in love, quit his job, got married, and had a child to the displeasure of Sattu who has him prosecuted for 6 years. Upon his return, he realizes that his wife is married to someone else and his daughter doesn’t even know that he exists. To make things worse, Sattu is hot on his heels and wants him to come back to his old profession. All Bittu wants is to see his daughter and evidently, he can do so only after squaring off his wife’s husband’s loan with Sattu.

Alok Kumar Gupta aka Allu (Rajkummar Rao) was madly in love with Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh) from childhood. Pinky, however only used Allu to get different jobs done and when the time came, she married a somewhat wealthy manager and settled down leaving Allu to lick his wounds. As luck would have it, Pinky’s husband gets entangled in a murder case and Pinky once again turns to Allu for help. Allu is still smitten by her and decides to help her in any way possible not knowing what he was getting into. Shreeja (Pearle Maaney) and Rahul (Rohit Saraf) are two down on luck poor schmuks who land a jackpot when they get their hands on a huge stash of cash belonging to Sattu. The only problem is, Sattu is hot on their trails and would go to any lengths to reclaim what is his.

Abhishek Bachchan as Bittu in a still from Ludo

Ludo is the story of what happens when all these people run into one another and of things that affects their respective narratives. I just loved how intelligible Anurag Basu keeps the screenplay even though there are a huge number of subplots, characters, and the stories often running into each other further complicating the different narratives. It was also extremely important for each of the stories to make sense and remain rooted in realism. Even if one of the stories failed, it would definitely bleed into the other portions thereby spoiling their fun as well. Thankfully, Basu cooks up a sumptuous broth and keeps everything under a tight leash ensuring that the realism is maintained and the stories are intriguing enough to hold on to our attention. Each of the stories plays out in a three-act structure individually and great care is taken to ensure that characters have enough motivation for doing what they are shown doing. The director also ensures that there are enough light moments in each of the stories so that they don’t get overly serious or overbearing.

My favorite of the lot was the story of Bittu and the kid Mini (Inayat Verma) who is trying to fake her own kidnapping to make her parents care for her. Bittu finds himself incapable of meeting with his daughter and is crestfallen as he had turned a new leaf evidently to be a good father and husband but his world fell apart anyways. In Mini’s company, he is able to live out the dream of being a father that he had cherished and gets whatever little solace that he could from the moments that he shares with her. The fact that Abhishek Bachchan acts as well as he ever had and is wonderfully complemented by Inayat Verma adds to the charm of this portion. My next favorite story is that of Allu and Pinky. This story ends on a shockingly violent note. For a story that is so crazy and goofy the ending only justifies its maddening and exceptional core. Rajkummar Rao and Fatima Sana Shaikh are delightful in their essays and complement each other perfectly. Rajkummar Rao’s oddball charm is something that made this track even more special.

The other stories are also equally engrossing. The romantic angle between Sattu and a nurse played by Shalini Vatsa brought an interesting emotional angle to the tale. The kind of person that Sattu is shown to be from the beginning only adds to the shock value of this track and plays up to the central theme of the film that dwells on the unpredictability of the world and the nature of the people in it. The only track that suffers because of a lack of feasibility is that of the romance between Shreeja and Rahul. The actors enacting the characters do a fine job. It is the writing that is the villain here and the writers should have thought of some better reasons to have them develop feelings for each other or could have kept the romance out of the equation. That might have served the story better.

Fatima Sana Shaikh as Pinky and Rajkummar Rao as Allu in a still from Ludo

Ludo is a gorgeous looking film and coming from Anurag Basu, it is no surprise. Every frame and angle is meticulously worked out to give you the best visual experience that the story and settings could offer. I just loved the pacing and editing of the film and while many will cite the overindulgence in the beautiful world that Basu has created and the tropes involved in it to feed into the central theme and name of the film, I felt that this indulgence was warranted and only added to the charm of the film. Basu likes to take his time with his story and it has been the case with all his films. Ludo is not an exception.

Here is a film for the thinking audiences and the ones who are willing to pay attention to. It has interesting characters, an engrossing story, and wonderful performances from the ensemble cast. The vibrant visuals and catchy music only add to its inherent charm and elevates the experience further. It is a film that should be watched and supported as it is in films like this that the future of commercial Bollywood films depends on.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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