There is something unmatchable about the joy of an Anurag Basu film. Colours are somehow more saturated in his world, people are more interesting, and humour is omnipresent, even in places you wouldn’t normally look. ‘Ludo’ in that sense is a fine-tuned version of his filmography. The world-building he explored in ‘Barfi’ (2012) is mixed in with the storytelling style of ‘Life… In a Metro’ (2007) and the fun of ‘Jagga Jasoos’ (2017). It is beautiful, spirited and chaotic.
‘Ludo’ presents four different stories about people doing the wrong things for the right reasons. The narratives are aptly colour-coded yellow, green, blue and red, all overlapping thanks to Sattu Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi) – the dice in this metaphor. Akash (Aditya Roy Kapur) reconnects with his ex Shruti (Sanya Malhotra) to remove their leaked sex tape from the internet before her wedding is sabotaged. Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh) asks his longtime one-sided lover Aalu (Rajkummar Rao) for help rescuing her cheating husband from a wrongful murder allegation. Sheeja (Pearle Maaney) and Rahul (Rohit Saraf) bump into each other at a crime scene and become accomplices in a crime of their own. Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan) and Mini (Inayat Verma) team up to find a love from their families that they are desperately looking for. Overlooking them are Rahul Bagga and Basu himself, discussing, narrating, and playing Ludo on an iPad.
As a comedy ‘Ludo’ is incredibly campy, but never slapstick. Watching Tripathi, who can even make lazy jokes work, perform Basu and Samrat Chakraborty’s clever writing is a pleasure. Each storyline has its own style of humour, which Basu juggles flawlessly. Rao and Shaikh are filmy, while Kapur and Malhotra are light, goofy, rom-com like. Mini’s adorable innocence is contrasted with Bachchan’s tragic Bittu, so the result is sweet and heartfelt. Maaney and Saraf are in a silent(-ish), vintage comedy surrounded by eccentric situations. Not one of these diverse plotlines feels ignored because the attention to detail is impeccable. Each story has its own quirks, yet they all make perfect sense in the same universe.
Anurag Basu is an overindulgent filmmaker and ‘Ludo’ definitely suffers because of it in parts, but as a viewer it is hard to be upset. The two hours and 30 minutes runtime filled with multiple narratives to follow, far too many little details to spot occasionally becomes overwhelming, but thanks to Ajay Sharma’s editing it is never confusing. Basu manages to discuss the morality of good and evil, the pain and relief of love, the unpredictability of fate all through one complicated plot.
The experience of watching ‘Ludo’ ironically embodies the messy, passionate fun of that one game of ludo you still reminisce about. It all simultaneously seems too much and not enough, but it never feels wrong. Perhaps Basu should look into abandoning the constraints of movies and making his stories into series where he can freely explore and indulge, and so can we.