Film Review: ‘Ludo’ Is a Joyous Carnival of Colours, Delight and Charm
From a resurfaced sex tape to a rogue suitcase of money, four wildly different stories overlap at the whims of fate, chance and one eccentric criminal.From a resurfaced sex tape to a rogue suitcase of money, four wildly different stories overlap at the whims of fate, chance and one eccentric criminal.
Director: Anurag Basu
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Rajkummar Rao, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Rohit Suresh Saraf, Pearle Maaney
Runtime: 150 minutes
With virtually no blockbusters releasing in theatres this Deepavali (not even the highly-anticipated Master starring Vijay), it’s a sign of the times with large theatrical fares celebrating the festival season taking centre stage on streaming services instead. One of such is Anurag Basu’s cheerful comedy Ludo, which has recently premiered exclusively on Netflix.
Based on the ever-popular board game, Ludo links four wildly different stories together to weave a spectacular celebration of the ups and downs of life. Each story is told through a dazzling cast of characters, eye-popping colours, and exciting twists and turns that is sure to keep audiences laughing along and joyously entertained by the dark comedy.
Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan), a retired gangster, returns home from incarceration to discover that his wife and daughter have moved on but finds redemption helping a runaway girl. Voiceover artist Akash (Aditya Roy Kapur) and soon-to-be-married ex-lover Shruti (Sanya Malhotra) finds their sex tape leaked on the Internet.
Part-time restaurant owner and full-time romantic Alok does everything to help out his childhood sweetheart Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh) – including saving her ungrateful husband from jail. Two down-on-their-luck youths Rahul (Rohit Suresh Saraf) and Sheeja (Pearle Maaney) stumble upon a briefcase that could turn their fortunes around. At the centre of it all is gunslinging crime boss Sattu Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi).
Presiding over these stories are modernised depictions of Yamraj (played by director Anurag Basu) and Chitragupta (Rahul Bagga), both of whom parallel the ongoings to a game of Ludo while doling out tidbits about sin and virtue.
That hefty synopsis hasn’t even covered all of Ludo’s cast of thousands. Keeping each of these varied stories entertaining is one of the film’s biggest strengths. It’s no small feat either. Where they converge is with the crowd-pleasing sentiment of love triumphing over all; how they converge is what makes Ludo an exhilarating rollercoaster. Always with a dose of humour and light hints of controversy, the film features action-packed chase scenes, shootouts and delightful musical sequences – and a jaw-dropping last reel that brings together all three elements.
Most genre tropes are featured in the film, yet Ludo never felt like it was throwing the kitchen sink at its audience. It’s clear that it aims for a wide appeal; there are definitely decisions that felt calculative. However, these mainly come with lines added in post-production about the festive season and COVID-19.
While there are weak links between the narrative and the actual board game, the film does a great job in bringing across the theme aesthetically. Each story is very clearly separated by the four colours of the Ludo board. These make for eyecatching visuals wonderfully splashed throughout Ludo. Unfortunately, these lose their lustre after a while with how much Ludo overplays its hand, going as far featuring vehicle license plates with the board game’s name.
No matter how the film looks, its core remains ever-engaging. Unbeknownst to the characters, even their most mundane decisions and actions ripples on to become vast consequences for the rest – while forming a wickedly enjoyable time for the audience. However, there are definitely liberties taken throughout the film in its relentless pursuit to link the stories together which does dampen the narrative’s charm.
While in no way a negative, Ludo may be intimidating for an international audience with its various references to Hindi mythology and Indian cinema’s superstars, as well as the film’s gargantuan runtime. 150 minutes might be a huge ask for many, especially when the film felt like it would be even more concise with a few cuts.
Regardless, the cast’s enchanting performance and Pritam’s joyful tunes consistently pushes all the concerns to the wayside. Be it through the film’s cutting humour or through truly over-the-top sequences, it would be hard to leave without a wide smile and more than a few laughs. Ludo is a carnival of colours, delight and charm, and an especially needed celebration in a muted year.
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Images credit: Netflix