Director: Anurag Basu
Cast: Abhishek A. Bachchan, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Aditya Roy Kapur, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Rohit Saraf, Pearl Maaney, Inayat Verma
Streaming on: Netflix
Filmmakers and film scholars often talk about the significance of the opening shot/scene of a film. How it can help transport you to the world in which the film is set. Or at least give you an idea about what to expect for the next two hours. Anurag Basu’s Ludo begins with a Bhagwan Dada song Qismat Ki Hawa Kabhi Naram Kabhi Garam from Albela. The song plays over a brutal murder sequence where Sattu Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi) shoots a builder named Bhinder on point blank. The shots and sequence that follow give you a feeling that you’re in this film for a treat.
And why wouldn’t you be when the film is born out of the whacky vision of Anurag Basu. Ludo looks like the third instalment after Barfi and Jagga Jasoos in Basu’s whimsical trilogy (if you can call it that). While Barfi and Jagga Jasoos were based on relatively simple storylines revolving around a young man’s (Ranbir Kapoor in both films) quests. There’s a lot happening in Ludo. There are four main storylines running simultaneously. They cross each other’s paths by sheer coincidence or Qismat Ki Hawa as the song suggests.
These four storylines are of Bittu (Abhishek A. Bachchan), Alok (Rajkummar Rao), Akash (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Rahul (Rohit Suresh Saraf). Each symbolic of four colors of Ludo – red, yellow, blue, green. There’s a resurfaced sex tape, an ex-goon seeking redemption, an emotional fool lover, and a dejected sales boy. And of course, there’s a Don hovering over all of these. There’s also only one police officer solving all the cases in town.
Which town? This is a fantasy world set in the real world. Such a pleasure to watch on screen. The number plates of the cars are labeled Ludo. An element of fantasy, whimsy has never bothered me while watching a film. At least we have someone like Anurag Basu who creates these magical worlds like Wes Anderson in Hollywood. His previous film Jagga Jasoos (2017) which was a box-office flop is slowly getting a following which it deserved when it released.
Basu’s visual aesthetics and command over the screenplay are at their best display in Ludo. His relatively smaller scale movie Life… In a Metro (2007) is also a great example of compiling multiple stories into one seamless narrative with smart screenplay and scene design.
The song with which the film begins is essentially the one line story of this film. So much happening at a roller coaster pace over two and half hours doesn’t seem like a stretch at all. You don’t really have to keep track of all storylines also. Basu does that at regular intervals with the screen split into four frames to show where each character is at that time.
The filmmaker is known for changing scripts over and over again. And the world he creates requires so much visual and special effects that it must be difficult to put together a movie. Yet, actors over the years beginning from Life… In A Metro have trusted Basu’s vision. Look at the stellar cast he has managed to put together in Ludo. Everyone gives spectacular performances. Nobody is a protagonist here. Make no mistake, all these actors have solo-lead films and series on their credit. Yet everyone has surrendered to the director’s vision, doing their part in the film.
Watch the trailer of Ludo:
In top form are Rajkummar Rao and Abhishek A. Bachchan. How sorted are Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra as actors? Remarkable. Aditya Roy Kapur shines as the adorable ventriloquist. There’s not a single dull moment when Pankaj Tripathi is on screen. The linguistically challenged Rohit Saraf and Pearl Manney as accidental lovers hold their own amidst the star-studded cast. The young Inayat Verma is like the cherry on top of this beautiful multilayered cake Basu Da has baked.
In Ludo, Basu takes cinematography in his hand. There are many minute details he has covered here and there, giving us something more in every frame. But the cinematography lacks the touch of an ace DOP. Certainly missed S. Ravi Varman’s (Jagga Jasoos, Barfi, Tamasha) magic here. It is impossible to find a real setting for what Basu writes and envisions. So, the visual effects needed to be a little better.
Basu has written this film as well as acted in an extended cameo, giving some gems of lines on love and life. My favorite was, “Kuchh rishton ka logic nahin hota. Bas magic hota hai.” (There’s no logic in some relationships; only magic.) Such is this film. You might have to watch it again if you wish to poke your nose and try to find logic or faults in it. But watch Ludo for its magic. Basu Da – the filmmaker is in his finest form.