Director: Anurag Basu
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanya Malhotra, Rajkummar Rao, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Pearle Maaney, Rohit Saraf, Shalini Vatsa, Rahul Bagga, Anurag Basu, Aman Bhagat, Asha Negi, Krishan Rathee, Vishal Tiwari
Ludo, named after the popular four-player board game – the app version of which made quite a splash in India during the lockdown – opens with two unnamed characters who sit down to play the game on a smartphone. One of them (played by the film’s director Anurag Basu) says to the other “What are human beings? Just different coloured tokens on the board of life.”
In Basu’s latest, a colour pallet-driven hyperlink cinema, four chaotic narrative threads collide at various points, come to a momentary standstill at others, offering a few laughs along the way.
Akash (played by Aditya Roy Kapur), a standup comedian discovers one day that someone had taped him and his ex-lover Shruti (played by Sanya Malhotra) having sex in a hotel room and uploaded it on the internet. Making things worse for Shruti is the fact that she is getting married in a couple of days in a grandiose, destination dream wedding. Bittu (played by Abhishek Bachchan) is a former ruffian who gets separated from both his wife and baby after landing up in jail right after he decides to mend his ways. Aalu (played by Rajkummar Rao) is a waiter at a roadside dhaba who sincerely believes he is in a ‘one-sided relationship’ with a girl from his childhood- Pinky (played by Fatima Sana Shaikh) – who now happens to be married with a baby named Babu. Sheeja (played by Pearle Maaney) is a Malayali nurse in a strange city who chances upon Rahul (played by Rohit Saraf) and a suitcase loaded with cash, both on the same day. And tying them all together is Sattu Bhaiya (played by Pankaj Tripathi), the mobster, whose actions cause direct consequences in all four narratives.
In the film, Rao stands out and renders a near-perfect portrayal of the lovesick dhaba waiter Aalu who simply cannot say no his school-time crush Pinky. Every time Pinky comes to the dhaba, Rao is visibly rattled. He darts across the restaurant to another room where he breaks down in sobs. That she always comes seeking a favour does not seem to dishearten Rao whose eyes always appear to be filled with hope as he says Bolo (tell me). Tripathi who is no stranger to playing the role of the mobster fits into the film with visible ease.
Basu does manage to bring a sense of realness to the characters in Ludo – visible in the scene where the nurse, Sheeja, tries to push Tripathi off a bridge so she can take off with his suitcase full of cash. She first ties his shoelaces together and then pokes him in the chest with her finger hoping that it would be enough to send him on a fatal fall. When a suspicious Pinky hops on her scooty to follow her husband, she does not change out of her nightwear, and later, when her husband gets arrested, a flustered Pinky shows up at the police station, clad, yet again, in nightwear.
What really salvages Ludo, however, is the brilliant use of colours throughout the film. Akash and Shruti’s narrative is built around the colour theme yellow. In their story we see a lot of things tinted with the same colour- the car they drive, the salwar kameez that Shruti wears when they first meet, the kurta Akash is seen in during his gig and the walls of hotel rooms they revisit, to name a few. In Bittu’s story, red is the prominent colour theme- seen in the flickering neon lights on his street, the towel that he uses and a van he drives later in the film.
All the positives notwithstanding, Ludo is a hit-and-miss affair. The in-your-face twists and turns, the linear manner in which the characters’ lives collide with each other, even the jokes – everything seems a bit laboured in Basu’s Ludo.
Ludo is streaming on Netflix.
The Ludo review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.