Review: Anurag Basu’s LUDO Is Outrageous. But In A Good Way. Sometimes.

Published by Shah Shahid on

Anthology movies historically never do well, in any industry, be it Hollywood or Bollywood. Multiple storylines, huge casts, minimal intersecting; it usually feels less than what it could’ve been, if they were more conventional stories. Similarly, Netflix’s Ludo has the same issues, but it’s the execution of these multiple storylines that makes the movie an entirely enjoyable watch. It’s not the best thing from writer-director Anurag Basu, but it’s up there within the niche sub-genre of anthology films. So check out my totally spoiler-free Ludo movie review to find out why this Netflix original is totally worth your time. 

Anurag Basu Excels At Anthology Stories, Even When They’re Not

One look at Anurag Basu’s filmography, and you can tell exactly the kind of movies he has a penchant for. Life In A Metro was his most significant film, which was another anthology drama about the various lives that live out in an urban city. Even his movies that weren’t anthology films, definitely felt like they were. Both Jagga Jasoos and Barfi! (My review here) packed in multiple storylines and time periods, despite having one plot, and excelled in non-linear storytelling. 

Ludo falls in that same category of amazing multi-part stories told unconventionally. While the story takes a bit of time to ramp up, when it does, it’s one outrageous plot point after another, culminating in a (somewhat) satisfying ending. I mean, there are problems here, but they don’t entirely take away from this Ludo movie review. 

Ludo Is All About People Trying To Find Some Sort Of Happiness

The major theme of Ludo, seemingly, is how all the characters are in search of something. Sometimes literally, but mostly figuratively. Family, stability, love, a better life, unfulfilled love, and just… happiness. The movie starts with the narration of how Ludo, the board game, is all about the game tokens frantically moving about the board, trying to get home. Which is the perfect summary of the movie itself. The how they get home part is the point. 

The Performances Are Pretty Incredible

Ludo features the disconnected stories of multiple characters. One of the the main stories is about Bittoo (Abhishek Bachchan), a reformed gangster who returns from prison to find his wife remarried and himself a stranger to his young daughter. Then there’s Akash (Aditya Roy Kapoor), who discovers a sex tape involving him and an ex-fling Shruti (Sanya Malhotra), who is about to get married. The colorful small-time con-artist turned restaurant owner Alok (Rajkummar Rao), gets his life turned upside down when his unrequited love, Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh), returns to ask him for a dangerous favor. 

And rounding out the cast are Rahul (Rohit Saraf) and Shreeja (Pearle Maaney) who accidentally happen upon some a suitcase full of money, that promises them a better life but puts them in the sights of the larger villain of the story. Who just happens to be Sattu, played to perfection by Pankaj Tripathi. 

Ludo Movie Review Shows How It’s Fun But Uneven

The stories of Ludo are compelling, written well, and performed even better. But at times, some of it feels unnecessary, while others are just plain outrageous. Rao’s storyline feels dragged out for more material than there was. It’s clear after some point that Pinky is manipulating Alok, and even after he realizes it, he still puts himself at risk for her. It removes any sort of sympathy towards her and him, and begs the question of why we should even care how this particular story turns out. And the way their story does end is sort of the darkest part of Ludo

Bittoo’s story is probably the most, overtly tragic. His fate is sort of telegraphed during the movie itself, but Bachchan definitely gets the most to do, while not really saying much. Playing a variation of his Yuva character, Bachchan’s best scenes are when he’s sharing screen space with the young girl. While Akash and Shruti fulfil the sweet love-story angle of the story. And it works, for the most part.

Ludo Movie Review’s Best Story Is The One Without Much Dialogue

The best storyline is most likely Rahul and Shreeja’s. The two are constantly on the run while enjoying the best montages of the movie as they use their ill-gotten money to check into fancy hotel rooms, get makeovers, and just be living the life. All the while, the two can’t really communicate due to the language barrier between them. It’s sweet, soft and the actors have to do so much with not a lot of dialogue between them. Maaney is a delight and I definitely need to see more of her. And amongst all these storylines is the inimitable Tripathi who basically steals the show.

The Scene Stealer Of Ludo Is Pankaj Tripathi

It’s difficult to do a Ludo movie review, without discussing Tripathi. Tripathi acts as the dice in this Ludo game of a movie, connecting all the other players together. Tripathi is his usual charming self and completely steals every scene he’s in. His presence and performance totally make up for any lack of coherence and consistency in tone throughout the movie. Although the ending does leave open some open wounds revolving around good and evil, it’s still a performance that stays with you after the movie is over. Especially the one-liners. 

Ludo’s Representation Of Women Is Concerning

Ludo isn’t perfect, and by all means, there are many other complaints besides the lack of interconnectivity between the stories. The biggest issue though, one that passes by without any real mention, is the representation of women in the movie. Almost all the women are not the greatest people. And sure, the men aren’t either, but their flaws are kind of glorified, while the women are shamed for theirs. 

Shruti is basically a gold digger looking to marry the richest guy, while still having a physical relationship with Akash. Throughout the movie, she comes across as a totally reprehensible character. Even the ending doesn’t entirely redeem her, but rather plays her flaws for comedy instead. 

The Women’s Flaws Are Never Even Attempted To Be Redeemed

Pinky is totally manipulating Alok throughout the movie. Even after he gives a heartbreaking monologue about loving her, she doesn’t seem to care less. And even how the story ends, makes me more concerned about Alok’s future with her, than without. 

Bittoo’s wife is supposedly the reason he reformed his criminal ways. But she also marries someone else for support once he ends up in prison. She then berates him years later for working for the criminal Sattu before, even though her new husband took a loan from the same criminal, leading to his kidnapping and her current predicament. She guilts him into helping her, even though she washed her hands off him when he went to prison. 

The depiction of all women of Ludo is as selfish, self-serving, and manipulative. And even though they’re given nuggets of a story to make them feel sympathetic, it’s not nearly as well developed as the men’s backgrounds. 

You’ll Get From Ludo What You Expect

Honestly, in writing this Ludo movie review, I’ve wondered why I enjoyed this movie. I’ve walked back a lot of the things I enjoyed about the movie, as discussed on the most recent BollyCast Podcast episode. And it could be just the lowering of the bar during the lack of new releases in this Pandemic. Or it could be that I enjoyed more what this had the potential to be, than what it ended up as. 

Ludo works, in many different ways, if those ways are not to dig too deep. It’s an outrageous comedy when it wants to be, gets very serious and dark at times, while being emotionally moving during others. The situations are bonkers and the way the stories connect is interesting and the performances are lovable. Director Basu definitely handles all these moving parts adeptly to tell a story that simply entertains from beginning to end. If you don’t think too hard about everything else.

Ludo is currently streaming on Netflix. 

What did you think of this latest Bollywood anthology movie? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

Featured image via Netflix. 

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


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