‘LUDO’ | 12 November, 2020

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T-Series and Anurag Basu Productions’ Ludo is a dark comedy with different stories, all linked in some way or the other.

Bittu (Batukeshwar) Tiwari (Abhishek Bachchan) works under don Rahul Tripathi better known as Sattu (Pankaj Tripathi). He breaks free from Sattu as he wants to lead a happy married life. He is married to Asha (Asha Negi) and has a daughter, Ruhi (Myrah), whom he dotes on. However, his past life catches up with him and he is jailed. Rather than waiting for him to be released, Asha marries another guy (Bhanu Uday) who accepts her daughter too. Asha’s husband is picked up by Sattu’s men as he owes Sattu money. Asha pleads with Bittu to help free her husband.

Dr. Akash Chauhan (Aditya Roy Kapur), who lives with his elder brother and sister-in-law, is a ventriloquist whose video of sexual intercourse with Shruti (Sanya Malhotra) has gone viral. Since Shruti is about to get married to a very rich boy (Aman Bhagat), and because Akash does not want Shruti’s reputation o be tarnished, he and his lawyer-brother (Milind Dhaimade) approach Sattu to help them delete the video so that no more harm can be done to Shruti. On her part, Shruti joins forces with Akash to legally catch the culprit who seems to have made the video in the hotel room where they had been. Even till three days before her marriage, Shruti spends a couple of days with Akash.

Alok Gupta (Aalu) (Rajkumar Rao) was in love with Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh) but she had gotten married to another guy, Manohar (Paritosh Tripathi), and now has a baby boy too. However, Aalu has not been able to get over Pinky after all these years. Pinky’s husband is a womaniser and his current flame is one Sambhavi (Geetanjali Mishra). He is arrested by the police for two murders. Pinky rushes to Aalu for help. Aalu is ever-willing to oblige Pinky by coming to Manohar’s rescue.

Rahul (Rohit Saraf) works as a counter salesman in a store but lands with Sattu. Sheeja (Pearle Maaney) is a Malayali nurse who works in a hospital. Except for the head nurse (Shalini Vatsa), all the other nurses make fun of Sheeja. Rahul and Sheeja meet quite by chance and they are able to lay their hands on tons of money.

Mini (Inayat Verma) is a little girl who craves for the attention of her parents (Varun Verma and Mamta Verma). She plans her own kidnapping and, by sheer chance, meets Bittu. Since Bittu is already missing his own daughter, Ruhi, he becomes extremely fond of Mini.

And, of course, underworld don Sattu is at the centre of many of these stories.

What happens in the end? How do these stories of Bittu, Akash, Aalu, Rahul, Mini and Sattu intersect?

The dark comedy is also philosophical in many respects and shows how life can be no better than a game of Ludo. The underlying emotion of each of the five stories is love. Anurag Basu’s story and screenplay are complex, yet interesting. The viewer has to be completely attentive to comprehend the entire drama as even a few moments of distraction can put him off track. Also, the drama is a bit too lengthy and it should have been crisper. Nevertheless, the audience admires the writing if only because there are so many tracks and they all are equally interesting and engaging. The script has comedy, drama, tension, action, betrayal, murder and more, which is why it keeps the viewers entertained despite becoming boring at places because it is a bit too long-drawn. The many twists and turns in the story and screenplay keep the audience interest alive right through despite the few dips. Samrat Chakraborty’s dialogues are good, and even excellent, at places.

Abhishek Bachchan does a wonderful job as Bittu. He gives his character an identity that’s relatable. He steals people’s hearts in the scene in which he meets his daughter, Ruhi, after many years. Rajkumar Rao is lovely as a Mithun Chakraborty fan. He does full justice to a role one has never seen him in. He particularly stands out in scenes when he becomes emotional and in scenes when he starts dancing like Mithun. Aditya Roy Kapur is very endearing as Dr. Akash Chauhan. He acts with effortless ease and makes a lovely mark. Sanya Malhotra is excellent in the role of the carefree and footloose Shruti. Her character is layered and she does full justice to it. Fatima Sana Shaikh leaves a fine mark as the distraught Pinky who is torn between her husband and Aalu. She is very natural. Pearle Maaney stands her own as Sheeja. She is a fine actress and impresses with a mature performance. Rohit Saraf is quite good as Rahul. Pankaj Tripathi excels in the role of Sattu. The viewers marvel at his character’s demonic mind and at the actor’s brilliant performance. Inayat Verma is splendid as Mini. Her acting deserves distinction marks because despite being so young, she does not overact or under-perform at all. Asha Negi gives a good account of herself as Asha. Shalini Vatsa makes her presence amply felt as the head nurse. Ishtiyak Khan lives the role of the police inspector. Paritosh Tripathi leaves a mark as Pinky’s husband, Manohar. Bhanu Uday is alright as Asha’s second husband. Geetanjali Mishra leaves a mark as Sambhavi. Aman Bhagat has his moments as Shruti’s fiancé. Milind Dhaimade is natural as Akash’s lawyer-brother. Varun Verma and Mamta Verma provide decent support as Mini’s parents. Anurag Basu makes an impact as the sutradhar. Vishal Tiwari and Sandeep Sharma are fair as goons working for Sattu. Others are adequate.

Anurag Basu’s direction is very good. Not only has he written a complex script but he has also narrated it effectively. No doubt, the direction would appeal more to the class audience because of the complexities in the script but having said that, it must be added that Basu has done a good job. Pritam’s music is very nice. ‘Aabaad barbaad’, Hardum humdum’ and ‘Meri tum ho’ are all well-tuned songs which have lilt and melody. ‘Dil julaha’ is a sweet number. Lyrics (Saeed Quadri, Sandeep Shrivastava, Swanand Kirkire and Shlok) are weighty. Song picturisations are appropriate. Pritam’s background music is impactful. Anurag Basu’s cinematography is praiseworthy. Allan Amin’s action scenes are compact and real. Production designing (by Anurag Basu) and art direction (by Anjan Gajurel and Kailash Sahu) are of a good standard. Ajay Sharma’s editing is crisp.

On the whole, Ludo is an engaging entertainer. Good performances, interesting narration and melodious music are its plus points while its length (which could’ve been shortened) is a minus point. It will find fair appreciation. While classes will like the film, the audience which comprised front-benchers among the cinema-going public will not find it very interesting. The film will get critical acclaim too. Had it released in the cinemas, it would have done very well in the multiplexes of the big cities.

Released today (12-11-’20) on Netflix.