The game of Ludo represents the randomness of life. Nobody can predict the next number on the dice, as it’s being rolled by the player. Just like the arbitrary events that happen in life. Events, incidents, accidents – they all are the part of the unpredictability that life has to offer. But somehow, at the end of life, things start to fall into a pattern, the so-called randomness starts to get into a shape, with meanings coming out of it. Just like the four tokens of the colour group, going back to their houses. Director Anurag Basu spins a tale of quirk as he takes multiple stories in a shared timeline and makes them part of the cause and effect phenomenon. ‘Ludo’, his latest offering talks about morality, good, bad, ugly and how it impacts the average Joe. Having previously dabbled in ‘Life Of A Metro’ (2007),  anthology stories are not new to Mr Basu, however ‘Ludo’ takes idiosyncrasies to a new height with its abstract, weird and comedy of errors. A leaked sex video, a dead man, two bags of loot, a self-kidnapped child, it all happens – in a game of Ludo!

At the very beginning, the audience is introduced to the four players, each represented by a colour. There are four stories that run in parallel, often colliding with each other, as a catalyst of a certain event. The director himself plays the mysterious narrator who keeps a close eye on the events along with an equally mysterious partner, while they both play Ludo. As random events take place, each impacting the other narratives, the audience learns that to understand life, one has to take it as it comes. Just like a game of Ludo, where one can still get stifled even if the dice rolls two sixes and a five. 

Director Anurag Basu has an affinity for drama and his characters exude the same. Be it the cold-blooded gangster who turns into a human for his love, who eventually betrays him back or the mute, loveable buffoon who heartbreakingly professes his anger via sign language for having been rebuffed in love, the Basu Cinematic Universe have these affable, flawed characters showcasing the peculiarities of being humans. In ‘Ludo’ we have similar characters, with their quirks defining them. A man who walks and talks like Mithun, a woman who is hellbent on marrying a rich guy despite being in love with another guy, who himself is so lost in himself that he doesn’t know what to do with life, two on-the-run criminals turned lovers who don’t speak to each other as language becomes their barrier and a criminal who just doesn’t die ever!  One weird event keeps occurring after the other, thus managing to keep the interest levels afloat. Full marks to the equally weird cinematographer who paints a fantasy land on the screen, which has a villain’s den in an island and has scenic locales that remind of a rural Bengal. Oh, by the way, that’s again Mr Basu for you, as he helms three roles as director, writer and cinematographer! With his music companion for life Pritam who again churns some of the most soulful music, this is a fine film.

‘Ludo’ works because of its weird stories and superlative performances. Abhishek Bachchan in a performance that reminds of the Lallan Singh from Maniratnam’s ‘Yuva’ (2004) does great. In fact, the storyline could’ve been an extension of the story in ‘Yuva’ where Lallan Singh goes to jail. Resembling Tagore’s ‘Kabuliwala’, the story of a man who finds his daughter in an unlikely companion  – a self-kidnapped girl, Abhishek Bachchan feels at home, playing a man with deep anguish. Rajkumar Rao plays a Mithun Chakraborty aficionado with aplomb who moves heaven and earth for his former flame, played by Fatima Sana Shaikh. Aditya Roy Kapur and Sanya Malhotra play the couple with a high libido, setting out on a mission to identify the hotel which recorded them having sex. Rohit Saraf and Pearle Manney play Bonny and Clyde as they run with the bags of loot with a bunch of criminals looking for them. And above all, the very talented Pankaj Tripathy plays a caricaturish Kaleen Bhaiya from Mirzapur who despite all his evil doings, still emerges alive from the deadliest of situations. Bravura performances!

Eventually ‘Ludo’ ends on a note where some win and some lose, representing the game where the lucky ones get to their bases first. Running at two hours and thirty minutes, it may trouble the viewer if they aren’t sold on the premise of how the same set of people can encounter each other again and again. As one of the characters says in the film, some things don’t have logic, they only have magic! Logic takes a back seat and events bordering on ridiculousness occurs, that makes the viewer smile. Well, Isn’t that the original purpose of the game? 

After all, life is Ludo and Ludo is life!

‘Ludo’ now streaming on Netflix worldwide. Running time – 2 hours 30 minutes, Maturity rating – Adult for language and mild sexual content.

The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5

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