Ludo Movie Review: Abhishek Bachchan, Pankaj Tripathi Netflix film is naram-garam and delicious

Ludo Movie Review: Anurag Basu film is out-of-the-box while staying firmly in the box. He finds great support in actors like Pankaj Tripathi, Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao and others.

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Ludo Movie Review: The Anurag Basu films is near perfect.
Ludo Movie Review: The Anurag Basu films is near perfect.
Movie Name: Ludo
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Sanya Malhotra
Director: Anurag Basu

"Life ki lag gaye hai Ludo". softly plays in the background as the four main characters of Anurag Basu's Ludo run helter-skelter. It doesn't take too much to decipher that code there. Truer words have not been spoken in 2020. But it is films like these that remind you that behind all the smog that clouds the Delhi sky, there's sunshine - warm, sweet and totally bright.

Ludo stars Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Rohit Saraf, Pearl Maaney, Shalini Vatsa and saving the best for the last - Pankaj Tripathi. Each a bonafide star in the roles they essay. In a life-like game of Ludo, these pawns cross paths, speeding past each other at one time and being dragged down at another. Like a master puppeteer, Basu watches over - both on and off camera. Watch the film to know what that means.

Watch Ludo trailer here:

Now, more on the movie.

Sattu Bhaiya (Tripathi) is a mafia boss, but he is no Kaleen bhaiya. He is way, way cooler, with his yellow shades and spiky hairdo, and a leather jacket worn over a lungi. He kills not to kill but to free your soul so you get the chance to start fresh. Bang, a shot fires and you are instantly hooked.

If Sattu is rangeela, his ex-gang member Bittu (Bachchan) is 50 shades of dark. Fresh out of jail on an attempt-to-murder charge, Bittu is angry, at life and by extension himself. He wants his daughter Ruhi back - out of love or ego, emotions that should never be confused but are often done.

Ventriloquist Akash (Roy Kapur) is a man born in the galat zamana. He is a hopeless romantic with little monetary ambition. But he is sorted in his head - he wants true love in return for his own, and nothing less will do, even if that means letting go of Shruti (Malhotra), engaged to marry in less than a week.

Mithun da fan Alok aka Aloo (Rao) runs a restaurant and dances to Mithun's disco moves when he is stressed. The only thing he loves more is Pinky (Shaikh), his childhood obsession, now married with a baby, Babu.

Rahul (Saraf), on the other hand, is quiet, so much so that when the manager of the store he works at bullies him, even slaps him because he thinks he can get away, he accepts, internalises it and gets back to work. He double-pawns with Sreeja (Maaney), a Malayali nurse who speaks neither Hindi nor English but is all heart. When these red, blue, yellow and green pawns play the game of life, on a Ludo board masterfully arranged by Basu, the audience simply cannot pause the OTT screen and move to anything else.

Honestly, Ludo mein kuch bhi ho raha hai. Especially at the end. But that is life. Just when you think your life is headed in one direction, a bizarre turn of events sets you on a different track. A movie like this, which juggles so many plotlines and different characters, each with a different, distinct story, could have easily fallen completely apart. But Basu holds them tight, woven together with the help of an old Bhagwan Dada song, O Beta ji. Each time your mind boggles, the melody plays, soothing you right back into a lull.

Ludo also has an exceptional screenplay, complementing the madness of the narrative. Special mention here to the editing and the transition scenes which zoom out to give you a birdseye view of each pawn turning the screen into an actual Ludo board. Just brilliant. The narrative style did have an Anurag Kashyap vibe, even in how the frames are set and the colour scheme chosen. But that's not a drawback, for Basu quickly adds his quirk to it, seesawing between kabhi naram-naram kabhi garam-garam, like that Bhagwan Dada song.

It is nearly impossible to fault the performances by any of the cast members. There's absolutely nothing Tripathi cannot do. And same for Rao. Bachchan, after his telling performance in Breathe: Into The Shadows, redeems himself and how in this one. With Bittu, Bachchan starts off from where Yuva's Lallan left off, if he had lived. Basu did that deliberately and we tip our hat to that.

Shaikh is a director's actor. If in Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari she came across as underwhelming, in Ludo, is simply pout-perfect. Malhotra and Kapur hold their own, with the former outshining the latter in places. Still a pretty neck-and-neck performance, and outstanding camaraderie. Saraf and Maaney are the surprise package. Anyone who has watched Priyanka Chopra's The Sky Is Pink couldn't have missed him even as the film revolved around Zaira Wasim. Here, he is given enough meat to sink his teeth into and he does. As if hungrily demanding Bollywood note his talent. Maaney too is simply delightful.

The music in Ludo is understated, as it should be. O Beta ji runs like a parallel theme. The Ludo title track, as mentioned at the start, grabs your attention too. Every film needs an Arijit Singh song and therefore Ludo has Aabaad Barbaad. We don't know what's better, his voice or the lyrics. In one scene, two characters break into a dance with Malayali music blasting off the speakers. Just the smack one needed at that point in the narrative.

The Yamraj and Chitragupta trope is unmissable, quirky and frankly too much fun. Thumbs up.

Is the film perfect? Yes, it has its obvious flaws, the controlled madness of the start goes off-bounds at the end. But that's also one thing Ludo teaches us - perfection is flawed, as is that sentence you just read.

Welcome back, Anurag Basu. We've been waiting since Jagga Jasoos.

3.5 stars out of 5.

(The writer tweets as @NotThatNairita)

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