Ludo (2020) Review – A Quirky And Arresting Tale


The 2020 Netflix original Ludo, marks the comeback of director Anurag Basu post the 2017, Jagga Jasoos. The film is exactly what you expect out of a Basu film. A detailed production design, extravagant use of colors, nuanced and pre-thought out aesthetics, blocking and choreography in a rhythmic fashion, entertaining and peerless characters are a  few characteristics that define the style of film-making making that Anurag Basu is known for. His earlier venture, Jagga Jassos, made use of similar visual techniques that could be compared to the style of the veteran filmmaker Wes Anderson. It is to be seen that both these film makers use their performers to denote a specific pattern. The actors combined with the props create a visual jest or a pun that form an eccentric part of the narrative.

The plot of every Anurag Basu film is simple yet complicated in it’s own authentic way. It is often inspired from life where unknowingly we cross paths with each other. Generally we don’t have an iota of knowledge that how some action of a complete stranger whom we haven’t met will bring about a change in our own lives.

The Quirky Characters

In Ludo, five stories intersect each other in a way that they contribute or trigger some event or action in each other’s life. They do it unknowingly. The narrative is quite similar to the 2007 Anurag Basu drama, Life in a Metro. The only difference being that this time the characters are more unusual and outlandish. They generate a sort of visual humor as compared to the emotionally saturated and realistic characters of Life in a Metro.

A chain of actions and reactions is triggered when a video surfaces on the internet, capable of tarnishing the image of the people seen in it.

Pankaj Tripathi plays Sattu Bhaiya, a don who straps a gun on his thighs. Rajkumar Rao, who is in exceptionally good form, plays Aalu a.k.a Alok Kumar Gupta, who has an unsuccessful love life, who always wanted to be like Amitabh Bachchan but dresses up and acts like Mithun Chakraborthy just because his crush Pinki likes him. Pinky is played by the innocent Fatima Sana Sheikh, who doesn’t understand the havoc her decisions and actions cause. Abhishek Bachchan plays Bittu, a goon trapped in the complexities of this world and an emotional cobweb. His character might give you a glimpse of Lallan Singh, one of his best portrayals, which he played in the 2004 drama, Yuva. Aditya Roy Kapoor plays a regular guy, who is laid back and has tried his hands at multiple things, finally settling down to being a ventriloquist. He gives us some major political and social satires that add some more flavour to this already colourful journey. Sanya Malhotra plays his love interest, a girl who has been always told to prioritize money over anything else in life.

The game of Ludo is seen as a metaphor where Anurag Basu himself plays a personified “Yamraj“, the Indian God of death. He also acts as the narrator who elucidates the difference between right and wrong,  truth and false, turpitude and virtue, if there is any. Through his narrative he tries to tell us that everything is but a perspective.

A Conspicuous Visual Psychology

The production design of the film is extremely nuanced and detailed. It grabs your attention to the minutest of details. The actors provide something to the frame each time they enter into it. They depict their characteristics through a string of actions rather than speaking it out. There is a lot of body movement and gestures  on the part of performers. There is an exaggeration of gestures, but it does not look melodramatic. The idiosyncratic nature of the narrative demands such gestures and movements. Editing and digital inter-mediation also ably support the director in achieving what he visualized.

Though Ludo is an extremely watchable film, the length is a bit too long. After the characters are established the film takes way too long to converge and narrow down to a desired pinnacle of events. Some of the characters don’t display the depth and often show underdeveloped traits and a lack of characterization. But the actors make up for the lost ground by showcasing some good performances, specially by Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkumar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi and Fatima Sana Sheikh among others.

The flashy, colourful, alive and enthralling world of Anurag Basu is extremely eventful and is a visual treat like his earlier films, where flares of Chaplin and characters inspired from Tintin are seen, provided you bear with the pace on a few occasions.

Ludo is streaming on Netflix.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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