Overlong and uneven, Anurag Basu’s Ludo is nonetheless an intriguing and darkly comic crime anthology worth a look on Netflix.
There has been a fair amount of fuss around Anurag Basu’s dark-comedy crime anthology Ludo, and it turns out for a fairly good reason. This is not a perfect film, you understand – it’s overlong and uneven, but since Netflix’s offerings from the subcontinent lately have been… mixed, to put things mildly, it’s easy to see Ludo as an improvement.
Within the anthological format, Basu tells multiple interconnected stories that play with genre, tone, and theme. Dotted around are faces both very familiar and slightly less so, but they include Pankaj Tripathi as an eccentric gangster, Aditya Roy Kapur as a struggling voiceover artist, Fatima Sana Shaikh as a housewife, and Rajkummar Rao as an eatery owner. A suitcase of money and various criminal activities are involved, as are meditations on life, love, lunacy, and karma – there’s a reason all this is two and a half hours long.
That runtime will be an issue for some, as will the variations in mood and style, though that’s a given for most anthological stories. Nevertheless, there’s a helping of style and imagination to Ludo that helps to keep the whole thing creatively cohesive even when narratively it seems anything but. Basu directs actors well, you’ll notice, and the film’s very much a performer’s showcase.
Colour is used extensively and well, one of a few stylistic quirks that help to set Ludo apart. For all its formal trappings, it feels more in-sync than a lot of other more ostensibly linear films that have emerged from the region of late. There’s a lot to like and surprisingly little to quibble about, although there’s enough individuality in the craftsmanship that it might prove divisive. But the themes are universal enough for the global audience Netflix provides. In a nice change, Ludo is deserving of the attention.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.