Ludo review: A new game with old rules
Ludo is a dark comedy that presents itself as an offbeat, quirky film
By: Sonia Chopra
Critic's Rating: 2.5/5
Friday 13 November 2020
Ludo review: A new game with old rules
Abhishek Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Rajkummar Rao, Rohit Saraf, Pearle Maaney, Pankaj Tripathi
The film begins with two men playing ludo, simultaneously discussing our characters’ trajectories, and ruminating philosophically on ‘sin versus virtue’. The film is as black and white as their respective costumes. Director of several noteworthy films including the precious Barfi! Anurag Basu seems to be slightly off his game here.
However, Basu staples— beautiful visuals and oddball memorable characters—remain in Ludo as well.
The multi-narrative plot is represented with a palette of colours representative of ludo. Each of these characters gets into some soup or the other, and their lives collide as the story progresses.
Alok (Rajkummar Rao) described as being ubiquitous like a potato, is still in love with his childhood sweetheart Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh), who is married and has a baby. He is often confronted with Pinky’s damsel-in-distress face as she approaches him for all her big and small problems. He complies of course, while also secretly crying his heart out. In a very ‘obvious’ representation, the young mother is seen carrying the baby at all times, helpless look on face, and wearing a nighty everywhere including the police-station.
Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan), with an unwavering scowl, gets embroiled in the kidnapping case of a child, who ran away to get the attention of her neglectful parents. This section reeks of Bittu’s irresponsible behavior, though the background score goads us to sympathize with him. For several reasons, including the fact that he endangers the child’s life, this is the most problematic portion of the film.
Shruti’s (Sanya Malhotra) character confesses that everything she’s done, from speaking good English to learning etiquette, was to marry a rich guy. Yep, this film doesn’t score brownie points for its outdated portrayal of women.
Shruti gets in trouble when a sex-tape with a casual fling Akash (Aditya Roy Kapur) goes viral, just a few days before her fairy-tale wedding. Akash gallantly steps in to help her out (the men helping damsels-in-distress theme is prevalent in the film). He does so by first showing the explicit video (with the girl’s face visible) to his family, then the cops, and then the local ruffian (Pankaj Tripathi). Each of them watches with delight and has something ‘clever’ to say, one even comparing him to a horse. This portion again made me uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, a nurse (Pearle Maaney) and a homeless salesman (Rohit Suresh Saraf) find themselves unintentionally embroiled in the goings-on.
Local baddie Sattu Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi, full Mirzapur mode) proves to be the common link in all these stories. With a reputation for escaping near-death situations, he finds himself in the hospital yet again, this time befriending an endearing tough-talking nurse (Shalini Vatsa).
The humour, so important in a film such as this, varies. At times you have the tired tropes like Ramayana on stage, where the actors let loose on each other. A character is called Mark Zuckerberg Mishra presumably because he is good with technology. On the other hand, some of the stand-up comedy bits are contemporary and fun.
What works for the film are a few interesting plot twists, the interesting visual design, and some crackling performances by the ensemble cast.
This film could have been so much more. In the end, all you learn is ‘Life is Ludo, Ludo is Life’.
(Ludo can be viewed on Netflix)
Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2
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