World Cinema

Ludo: Movie Review

By Pranjali Wakde 

When luck suck, everyone f**k -Anurag Basu sheds light on life, labour and luck through Ludo.

Everyone will agree when I say that one of the most dangerous, cutthroat games to have ever existed is
Ludo. All that this game needs are a colourful board, equally colourful tokens and a die – and the race
begins. People who never raise their voice are seen yelling profanities while playing Ludo, whereas ones
who are always good at everything somehow end up being the loser of the game. Ludo is that
unpredictable – but it’s exciting, fun and one of the best ways to pass the time.

This exact same sentence can be applied to Anurag Basu’s latest creation, Ludo, released on Netflix in
Diwali. Ludo is unpredictable, exciting, fun and certainly not just a one-time watch. The story revolves
around four different people (read: tokens of the game) whose lives coincidentally come to overlap in a
series of ridiculously logical events, each one finding their own conclusion in the exact same area (read:
home). This type of multi-narrative always has a narrator, so as to ease you into the plot – and for this, we
have Basu himself as the philosophical, ludo-obsessed narrator.

We see him and his white-clad ‘PA’ (later revealed to be Yamraj and Chitragupta, respectively) playing the
game, placing the characters in this game and contemplating on their existence. It was in this scene I
realized that Basu planned to make the movie exactly resemble Ludo – the die is in his hand (being the
God of Death, the narrator and the director all in one go) as everyone scurries around to reach their next
destination. Needless to say, I was impressed right from the first scene.

Coming back to the story, we are first introduced to Sattu Bhaiya, aka Pankaj Tripathi being Pankaj
Tripathi. He’s a gangster and is the member of the blue side, though his connection with all the main
characters make him seem like the nucleus, the die. His style, even of killing someone, is way cooler than
ours will ever be, and soon, you’ll wish to die at his gunpoint and “Make a fresh start”. Sattu Bhaiya, many
moons ago, had a right-hand, Bittu – which brings us to the red square. Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan) is a
grim-faced, ex-gang member, fresh out of the jail, only to find out that his little family have moved on,
forgotten about him. He’s absolutely heartbroken would be quite an understatement – little does he know
he’ll be blessed by a bubbly, ‘Mini’ presence who will change his life around.

Next, in the yellow square, we have is Akash, a happy-go-lucky ventriloquist (Aditya Roy Kapur) whose
sending-love-letters attitude is all wrong for this instant-messaging era. He collides with his materialistic
ex-girlfriend and bride-to-be Shruti (Sanya Malhotra) again when he finds out that a video clip of them
having sex has gone viral on the internet. Their journey starts with them hunting for the maker of their
vide. 

With a Mithun-da attire and dancing like him in cases of extreme stress, Alok aka Aalu (Rajkumar Rao)
steals the show with his menu-rap and always saying “Bolo na” to Pinky’s (Fatima Sana Shaikh) “Tumhare
Alawa aur kiske paas jaati?” The two, forming up the green square, try to prove Pinky’s husband not
guilty, going to extreme lengths for that. As for the blue side, it is not only about Sattu Bhaiya, but also
about a humble and done-with-life salesman, Rahul (Rohit Saraf) and a humble, only-Malayalam-speaking
nurse, Sheeja (Pearle Maney), are in there too. They magically cross paths and stay together, initially
because of stolen money, but later on, the love factor gets added too.

With these characters safely in their places, the plot is kickstarted, falling into absolutely comprehensible
chaos in a matter of seconds, while Bhagwan Dada’s ‘O Betaji’ constantly plays in the background. What I
picked up from this chaos and called it my favourite was Bittu’s storyline. It is a typical gangster-meets-a-
little-girl-who-isn’t-intimidated-at-all-by-him-and-helps-him-come-out-of-his-shell. However, the
difference is made by the Bachchan and Inayat Verma’s beautiful acting. He tries to give the world to his
little family who later shun him, but that doesn’t stop him from giving a few happy – though stolen –
moments to Mini; God knows she needed it. This results in his sad death (read: loser of the game) and me
crying my heart out.

As opposed to this is the winner of the game, Sattu Bhaiya – another arc that I loved. A train almost
running over him, falling down from a crane, getting hit by a truck, getting caught in a blast – apparently,
none of this is enough to kill him. Apart from his gangster tenacity, dangerous beliefs and strong survival
instinct (Darwin has personally blessed him with this power), we also see that Sattu is capable of forming
friendships, finding love and expressing his feelings. And that is exactly what I fell for, just like Lata Kutty
(Shalini Vatsa).

The only thing I wasn’t immediately impressed by was the utter chaos the storyline sometimes dipped in.
However, that is exactly what made the movie more charming. Doesn’t Ludo (the game, not the movie)
fall into such disarray where you just want to quit? But you don’t, because you want to see how the end
turns out. Basu, that way, has created an exact, real-time replica of Ludo, where you can’t help but wait
to see how the characters move around and who gets done for good by the end, making it a wholesome
movie-watching experience.

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