Anurag Basu’s multi-starrer Ludo is a tale of happenstance, a love story, a farce, a family drama, a study of greed and a redemptive tragedy—all rolled into one. The characters within the multiple storyline display craziness, eccentricity, ridiculousness, emotional manipulation, and erratic behavior. Within the first few minutes of the film itself, we find ourselves rooting for the characters, living their lives and attempting to sympathize with their predicament. But sadly, we cannot hold on to our sanguine feelings for long because despite having its heart in the right place, the film finally stops us from having that truly satisfying viewing experience.
Akash Chauhan (Aditya Roy Kapoor) comes across his sleazy video captured by a hidden camera in a hotel room having sex with his no-strings-attached ex-partner Shruti Choksi (Sanya Malhotra), who is getting married after five days, and decides to get hold of the uploader. Pinky’s (Fatima Sana Shaikh) husband is falsely arrested by the police in an alleged murder case leading her to seek the help of his close friend, Alok Kumar Gupta aka Aloo, (Rajkummar Rao). Batukeshwar Tiwari aka Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan) has completed his prison sentence and has to keep the individuals, who were once his family, safe from the evil reach of his ex-boss and local don Rahul Satyendra Tripathi, aka Sattu Bhaiya, (Pankaj Tripathi). Rahul (Rohit Saraf) and Pearle (Shreeja Thomas) are chased by goons because they are in possession of money that belongs to the latter and finally, a little girl, Mini (Inayat Verma) fakes her own kidnapping to garner love and care from her all-time busy parents. What follows next are improbable events, mistaken identities, and ominously misleading circumstantial evidence that are quickly compounded upon each other, albeit by seemingly logical progression. All this culminates in a frantic showdown with all the characters inexorably heading towards the fate they bring upon themselves.
Regarding the oeuvre of his filmmaking, spanning almost two decades, not every work of Anurag Basu belongs to the pantheon of greatness, but it has to be said that each of his films is either made with a personal vision or is deeply entertaining. In that sense, he is an original, dynamic director. Ludo is heavy on the story and is rich in terms of its characterizations and atmosphere. Basu plunges with relish into using melodrama, coincidence, sensation, and violence. His characters are not the bland, amoral totems but real people with feelings and motives, who want love, money, and security. The crisscrossing multiple narrative format presents us with an array of situations where their character traits are explored as well as explained. Shruti who opts for a wealthy partner in spite of having satisfying liaisons with Akash because since her childhood she has been conditioned that a woman can have a happy family only with a successful and rich man, Aloo in spite of being a die-hard fan of Amitabh Bachchan mimics Mithun Chakraborty because the object of his affection, Pinky, now a married to a Soap Factory Manager, had a strong admiration for the ‘disco-dancer’, money provides strength to Rahul and Pearle to encounter exploitation and bullying, respectively at their workplace, Mini’s innocent but wise response acts like a pearl of wisdom for the aggressive Bittu, Sattu Bhaiya, a brutal murderer, on receiving care and concern from a thick-skinned nurse (Shalini Vatsa), beats the pulp out of a doctor, who sexually benefits from her.
With Ludo, Basu also dons the hat of a cinematographer and has developed a distinct aesthetic style that is easily recognizable through his use of striking color palettes in his production design. All the elements of the film’s visual design are clearly set to create a certain mood depending on the situations and to express the mental positions of the individual characters. The casting of all the primary, as well as the secondary characters, is done perfectly and their performances are persuasive. The deftly edited scenes by Ajay Sharma seamlessly juxtapose the parallel events into a cohesiveness.
But with a length of 150 minutes approximately, Ludo appears to have overstayed it’s welcome. There are so many characters and inter-connecting narratives that after an hour of watching the film we lose our initial connections with the characters and stop caring about the difficult situations that are entrusted upon them. And though whenever we start losing our interest in one of the stories, Basu skilfully introduces a twist or a plot point into the narrative, this strategy, novel at first, becomes gratingly. The film begins with a lot of promises of standing out as a modern and stylized piece of work endowed with creative mastery but fizzles out as it progresses forward. Basu who had triumphantly dealt with narratives earlier where the fates of diverse characters are intertwined with each other such as in Life in a Metro (2007), he fails to recreate the same kind of effect with this film. Even the game of Ludo, played by two mythological characters, that forms a parallel to the human life depicted within the narrative framework of the film is tiresome after a point. Thankfully, the music by Pritam provides soothing relief.
Overall, the film, while having its moments, is finally an example of how over-ambition derails visionary and strenuous intentions. If only Basu had squeezed the length and kept his characters and situations to a minimum, the film could have scaled the heights of becoming one of the best films of the year. But as it is, Ludo falls short of ‘being there’.
Hindi, Drama, Comedy, Thriller, Color