There is an element of imaginative fantasy that makes Ludo, a uniquely colour-coded anthology, a pleasing, breezy watch. This is a world that draws inspiration from a game of Ludo. “Ludo is life and life is Ludo”, philosophise two characters right at the beginning. It's an interesting narrative ploy, almost like a sutradhar in a play holding the various threads together.
While we do get a better sense of who and what these two characters represent as the story goes along, the little we can glean from the conversation is the preoccupation with trying to understand paap and punya (sin and virtue). What justifies ones actions? Who decides the moral implications and the compulsions that guide them? One of the characters is played by the writer-director Anurag Basu himself, and the non-judgemental tone of the narrator seamlessly glides into the story as well.
“What are humans? Just different coloured tokens in the board of life”, we are told. We start with a tabula rasa and slowly warm up to the many characters and their individual tracks. The improbability, its occasional sweet serendipity, the slight surreal touches and wry humour even when there are bullets being fired - the fantastical tone is a constant throughout.
We have Akash (Aditya Roy Kapur), an easygoing ventriloquist who meets Shruti, played by Sanya Malhotra. A bright yellow dominates most of the aesthetics of their frames. Green is reserved for Rajkummar Rao aka Aalu, a Mithun Chakraborty fan reverentially performing pelvic thrusts as he obsesses about his childhood sweetheart Pinky (Fatima Sana Shaikh).
Red signifies passion, and the colour here symbolises Abhishek Bachchan’s rage. He plays a man who has returned from jail only to witness his family disintegrated. As he pines to meet his child, he stumbles upon a little kid faking her own kidnapping (Inayat Verma). And then there is Sheeja Thomas (Pearl Maaney), almost always seen in her blue nurse uniform. She can only speak Malayalam and meets a confused lad Rahul (Rohit Saraf) in the unlikeliest of places. These four separate tracks and the characters cross paths due to a twist of fates brought about by Sattu Bhaiya aka Pankaj Tripathi.
Sattu Bhaiya is a whimsical person, happy to fire a bullet as readily as he flashes a disarming smile. He is the one who holds the dice of the others' destinies. Like other previous Anurag Basu films, the silence as well as music are redolent with meaning. From the beautiful use of the 'Kismat ki Hawa' from Albela to tracks composed by Pritam, the music matches the tapestry of the stories so well that the film is invigorated and energised by them.
Except for an explosive no-holds-barred climax that sees the characters end up in a synchronised chaos, the screenplay steers clear of extravagance, which works in its favour.
While the setting may seem fable- like, the emotions they evoke in us are authentic. It might take some time to get used to, but once we understand the spirit of the film Ludo can prove to be a lot of fun.
Our rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5.