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quick review:

The naram-naram, limp, stretched middle thankfully does not overshadow the garam-garam, sizzling, entertaining beginning and climax.

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Director: Anurag Basu
Running time: 150 minutes
Genres: Action, Noir
More Movie Info

Any film named after a game has to philosophise and equate it to life. They wouldn’t even name it so if it wasn’t for the desire to display the parallels the makers had drawn. Accepting that as a given, you seek what it has to say beyond what is obvious. And Ludo has loads to say. What’s more, it keeps you entertained too.

I’d have double-guessed myself for force-fitting this theme of loneliness if the film had not tried to spoon-feed it.

The laughter and the grins come with quirkily-worded dialogue—the profundity of which strikes you when the laughter has died, and the lines still linger. Unfortunately, these lines are accompanied by caricatured characters like the mall-store manager or workplace bullies. I understand these characters were required to highlight the frustrations of the protagonist of that storyline. But, if four stories can intertwine so well, the laughs also could have come without such slapstick. Especially jarring was some of the stereotyping. The one that stayed is that of mocking people from a particular Indian state and their language. Why?

The giggles and guffaws come with the actors owning their characters’ silliness. It says something about an ensemble if Pankaj Tripathi can be thought of as the weakest link because we are so used to how he can make us laugh. It must not have been easy to allow, each of the ten main characters, enough room to let the actors settle in and take charge. Maybe this is also why the film feels like a limp stretch in the middle. A 25-30-minute crisper film would have kept our attention better, especially with the umpteen distractions when you are streaming a film at home.

Nevertheless, the slick editing, especially in some of the sequences which merge the four stories together, doesn’t let you be distracted for too long. I especially enjoyed the editing in the title song’s picturisation. By its very nature, the genre of pulp which is based on multiple short stories requires the audience’s full attention. Even if the going slackens for a bit, the audience knows not to lose track for more than a bit. Ludo makes good use of it by adding a spoofy, parody-like garnish to the pulp. The screenplay craftily lays out clues to keep you as connected as you need to be. You don’t really need to map the entire big picture together to keep track. That could also be this screenplay’s bane if you are looking for a larger connect—it is not there.

Not in terms of the stories, at least. Ludo, the game, has four players. Ludo, the movie, has four stories. The game has each player using one colour. The movie has the stories colour-coded. eye roll The movie’s dice is a trigger-happy gangster who is also a hero in love with his name, Rahul (Pankaj Tripathi). hint-hint nudge-nudge That is just about the connect between the four stories. I guess, much like the game—the four players might as well be on their own trip, only ever-so-slightly crossing each others’ paths.

Despair not, though. There is an over-arching thematic connection. Loneliness and money. All the main characters are motivated by their loneliness—each one willing to do whatever it takes to feel less lonely.
- Alok (Rajkummar Rao) goes beyond logical limits to do what his love, Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh) wants, who in turn forgives her husband’s (Paritosh Tripathi) cockiness, let alone all else. The husband too is looking for company.
- Akash (Aditya Roy Kapoor) and Shruti (Sanya Malhotra) think following-the-heart and money, respectively will bring them happiness even if they are lonely.
- Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan) and Mini (Inayat Verma) are the most obvious lonely ones, the latter despite her age.
- Sheeja (Pearle Maaney) and Rahul (Rohit Saraf), the ones representing the uniformed middle-class in the form of a nurse and a mall-store sales assistant are lonely too.
- Rahul (Pankaj Tripathi) and Lata (Shalini Vatsa) are lonely because they are the leaders.

I would have double-guessed myself for force-fitting this theme of loneliness if the film had not tried to spoon-feed it. Thankfully, it is not as bothersome as it could have been otherwise because each character is an actor. Each of these characters is, at one point or the other, performing towards their agenda. Including the eight-year-old. In fact, she is the most charming one of them all. It does help that every character is also aware of their motivation. That adds a grey shade that makes them relatable even in the most ridiculous of situations.

That could also be the bane if you are looking for a larger connect—it is not there. Not in terms of the stories, at least.

The most spoon-fed theme though, would have been better left unsaid. The film would have been worth a repeat watch to discover the layers of right versus wrong that it alludes to subtly. But, they choose to spell it out. That still keeps it at watch-at-least-once level, even if with a social media break on the phone.

- meeta, a part of the audience

21 reviewers(?) - 9 yays 10 so-so 2 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...Crazily out of of control, these characters are driven deftly into a melee of madnesss and steered expertly out of the mess by a director who has never been in a better place. Welcome back, Mr Basu. Jagga Jasoos is forgiven.... full review

Thumbs up, by Anupama Chopra, Film Companion : ...Like the hawa, Ludo is also kabhi naram and kabhi garam. But the film leaves you with a smile on your face. And right now, that goes a long way.... full review

Thumbs up, by, Free Press Journal : ...Watch this one. It might not be as addictive as the Ludo game, but it sure is more fun.... full review

Thumbs up, by Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustan Times : ...For a film that gets so much right, the only jarring note is the title itself. ‘Life is Ludo and Ludo is life,’ the film’s director tells us at the beginning, as he plays the game while wearing a chihuahua of a fake beard. For a game that was at best a ‘time pass’ during the dreary lockdown, that level of commitment is indeed commendable.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nairita Mukherjee, india today : ...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.... full review

Thumbs up, by R.M. VIJAYAKAR, India West : ...Do not miss this one—it is leagues ahead of Basu’s multi-track “…Metro” and leaves me with a strange sense of pride—I have ALWAYS considered Basu to be one of the brightest directors Hindi cinema has seen among the millennium arrivals and he has yet again proved me totally right.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Sure you might even lose your chain of thought/storyline here and there— wondering where you started from, who's who, where you are, and where you're headed—between multiple sub-plots. But you just want all of them to continue—building brick over a brick of an atrangi world, that you're happy to stay inside for as long as you can. Have watched it twice, so I know!... full review

Thumbs up, by Rohit Vats, : I said earlier, Ludo is not about the individual stories but the aftertaste they leave. There, it’s a feel-good film which will make you laugh and inspire to not take life too seriously. Another good work from Anurag Basu’s repertoire.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ranpreet Kaur, Pinkvilla : ...Overall, the movie was a perfect blend of impressive story, incredible direction, stellar cast and awe-inspiring performance which leaves you with a smile on your face as Basu has rekindled the concept of a happy ending but with a twist.... full review

So-So, by Aishwarya Vasudevan, DNA : ...Unlike earlier movies of Anurag Basu, music doesn't play a catalyst here and seems to be forced into the narrative. However, if listened to it as a jukebox, Ludo has a soothing album and Pritam Chakraborty deserves all the credit.... full review

So-So, Filmfare : ...All-in-all, Anurag Basu has once more given us true-to-life characters caught in circumstances not of their own making and trying to do their best under the circumstances. There are no heroes or villains in the film. Just people making do with what life has thrown at them. The situations sometimes may feel implausible but you understand that’s the director exercising poetic licence. Ludo is a dark comedy at one level and a moralistic tale describing the effects of karma on the other. Watch it for some inspired acting by the ensemble cast and some genuine laugh-out-loud moments......

So-So, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...Verdict "Sawaal puch raho raho jalebi kaa aur jawaab chahiye kalakand ka," quips a character, and you realize that Anurag Basu has a lot of twists and turns in store in this game of ludo. Fortunately, Dada rolls a six in almost every frame to give us an entertaining game.... full review

So-So, India TV : ...Ludo is a delight primarily owing to its cast. Every actor in this film brings out the quirks associated with the role, notably Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi and little Inayat Verma. Together, the film's hapless protagonists engage in a bittersweet run against time as a peculiar play of emotions unfolds on the screen.... full review

So-So, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Still, in this time of corona, the virus finding an honourable mention in the movie, we could do with some fun and games, even if it slackens in bits. Basu is also a dab hand at using music in his movies: the perky musical interludes tell a story of their own. A six can be a nine, and yes, a strike can take you straight to the gates of heaven. Throw that dice.... full review

So-So, by Ambika Sachin, Khaleej Times : ...Ludo in the end works well because of excellent casting - the four stories are as varied as they come and the ending scene is reminiscent of a Western spaghetti with guns blazing, music playing and slow-mo moves that makes it classic gold. The story through can seem a bit drawn out and was Anurag Basu’s cameo just a tad self-indulgent for a movie packed to the brim with colourful personalities? Also the messaging about the truth about life, the good vs evil conflict and about death being the only reality of life are all thrown at us rather didactically as if Basu wanted the last word in and wasn’t content to just let the message seep in subtly.... full review

So-So, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...The girls - Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Pearle Maaney, Shalini Vatsa (as the head nurse who develops a bond with Sattu Bhaiya) and the young Inayat Verma, who are all in their elements all of the time - add range, depth and colour to the field. One of the male characters in Ludo admits to his friends: "Kuch rishton mein logic nahi hota, sirf magic hota hai." Absolutely! Think of Ludo as a ride with more magic than logic and you will probably find it worth some, if not all, of your love. Give the game a shot.... full review

So-So, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...The criss-crossing between characters is observed by a pair of commentators, including Anurag Basu. The duo settles down for several games of Ludo as plot strands intersect, unravel, and then bunch together again. This is so that we can delay the climax and go on and on, Basu’s character says – a reference both to the pornographic clip that has yoked Akash to Shruti together as well as the bloated narrative itself.... full review

So-So, by Srivatsan S, The Hindu : ...Basu seems to have learnt his lesson, for, the structure of Ludo is written with careful precision and the construct is cleaner; in Basu’s language, “it only has a beginning, a middle, and an end”. But its “middle” part is where it begins to develop a crack and you wish it had been tighter, with at least 20 minutes to spare. Mind you, Ludo is not a “lengthy” film, but the manner in which it jumps from one story to another becomes repetitive; the way these stories converge becomes convenient, and the resolution it gets towards the end is a tad generic.... full review

So-So, by Sreeparna Sengupta, Times of India : ...Ludo' has some moments that sparkle, some that are edgy, quirky and stay with you, but it also has some indulgent ones and some that seem pointless and unconvincing. The screenplay (Anurag Basu) gets scattered and meanders mid-way but if one can ride over those bumps (with a runtime of two and a half hours that may seem like a tad much), the climax ties everything up rather neatly, with some quintessential badass quotient and surprises thrown in. Watch this one for the noteworthy performances and its interesting mix of morally ambiguous characters. Ultimately 'Ludo' tries to make a larger point about not judging anyone for the choices they make.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...After all, a striking mess of confectionery and crockery is still a mess.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Ludo is basically a suspense thriller, fully choreographed like a Bollywood style musical. A better word to describe it is a pop-culture pastiche, which in most films turns into pasta since you can't consequently concentrate on the story being told between the amazing soft-focus shots. That is not the case here, since the film remains just as deeply focused on the narrative; taking the story forward, as it were.... full review

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1 readers - 1 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Raj : Enjoyed..

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads of gun-shots
  • Language: Lots and lots of abusive language
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Kissing scenes, making out scenes, pre-marital sex, mention of porn
  • Concept: Pulp-style intertwining of different threads
  • General Look and Feel: Light pulp, the theme is quirky though the treatment and texture might not necessarily be so.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

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Somehow Anurag Basu excels in the genre of inter-weaving stories,...

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