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How Anurag Basu set the dice rolling for Ludo

Latha Srinivasan | Updated on November 20, 2020 Published on November 20, 2020

Wide angle: Ludo was set for a theatrical release but Basu (in the image) eventually went for a digital launch because of the pandemic   -  IMAGE COURTESY: KERRY MONTEEN

With a stellar cast and four interwoven tales, the dark comedy crime film is all fun and entertainment

* Basu brought together a group of talented actors, some of whom have been doing stellar work in the Over The Top (OTT) space. Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Bachchan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aditya Roy Kapur and Fatima Sana Shaikh bring the four stories to life in the film. Interestingly, the actors Basu had in mind for each role readily agreed to come on board when they were approached.

It’s been quite a journey for Anurag Basu. Like many other directors, he’s made some path-breaking cinema but has also tasted failure at the box office. But Basu never stops experimenting — as one can see in his new film Ludo, featuring four life stories that are interwoven.

The film, he tells BLink, is all fun and entertainment. Aptly titled — the board game Ludo has been gaining popularity in the locked down age of Covid-19 — the film features an ensemble cast of well-known actors.

Basu’s last film Jagga Jasoos — on the 1995 Purulia arms drop case, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif — was a disappointment. So, is Ludo, a musical comedy adventure, a deliberate attempt at doing something different? He laughs. “It’s unfortunate that people only know you by your last film. You are forgetting Gangster, Life in a Metro, Barfi...,” Basu, 46, says.

Jagga... is not the reason (behind Ludo). I have made a film, which was not like my last film. I always try to change the genre irrespective of whether the last film has worked or not. That’s what keeps you going and excited about going for shoot every day.”

Ludo’s form is vastly different from that of his earlier films, he adds. “The pattern of Ludo was new for me. I was working on scripts before Jagga... was released.” He had four scripts on hand, he says, but it was the dark comedy crime film Ludo that he zeroed in on for his next project.

“I was confused because I was excited about all the four scripts. It was a problem of plenty. I shared the scripts with my ADs (assistant directors), my close friends, my wife and people I collaborate with and unanimously everyone liked this script. I did a little poll,” he reveals.

Basu brought together a group of talented actors, some of whom have been doing stellar work in the Over The Top (OTT) space. Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Bachchan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aditya Roy Kapur and Fatima Sana Shaikh bring the four stories to life in the film. Interestingly, the actors Basu had in mind for each role readily agreed to come on board when they were approached.

“I thought initially that the project would take time as these actors are also doing their solo films. I sincerely believed — before approaching them — that they would say no to an ensemble film and I’d have to go for Plan B. But there was no ego play and everyone was confident of their craft. Everyone came on board fast and the film was shot smoothly,” he explains. “The only difficult part was before going on floors — writing this film. That was the biggest challenge.”

Ludo was set for a theatrical release but the team eventually went for a digital launch because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The film premièred on November 12 on Netflix.

Directors want their film to be seen on the big screen. Was Basu disappointed about the digital release?

“In today’s scenario, there’s no room for disappointment,” he replies. “This is the new normal. I think directors always want their films to reach the maximum audience and OTT is the only platform that can do that. On Netflix, it’s been released in 190 countries in different languages,” he points out.

How does he react to the fact that all the Indian films released on OTT so far this year opened to mixed reviews? “I was disappointed with a few films myself as an audience member since I had a lot of expectations from them. But I think it happens in theatres too. That doesn’t change anything,” says Basu.

The director, who is originally from Bhilai in present-day Chhattisgarh, also seeks to stress that Bollywood is not the big bad world that it has been portrayed as in recent times. The death by suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput triggered a slew of horror tales of substance abuse and nepotism in the industry.

“Bollywood is not as bad as is talked about nowadays. I am an example (of the other side of Bollywood), Panjak Tripathi is an example. We all came from small towns and we got opportunities and we’re working. Newcomers and outsiders do get opportunities and the balance is pretty much there. Look at my cast in Ludo — that’s the balance the industry has got,” he asserts.

Basu was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. Surviving cancer can be life changing. Has it changed his perspective on life and his films?

“Maybe,” he replies. “I’m less cynical now. The magical and whimsical world has entered my cinema because cynicism has gone out of the window,” he says.

Quite like the way it has out of Ludo, perhaps.

Latha Srinivasan is a journalist based in Chennai

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Published on November 20, 2020
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