co-director Q has been a filmmaker that I've had my eye on
since his brash explosion onto the international art house scene with
. That film is loud, aggressive, and challenging to the viewer, in the way that the best transgressive cinema can be.
Over the years I've watched Q struggle to wrangle in that fury that he showcased with Gandu
and hone in on a more focused, more direct style that still refuses to play nice with his audiences.
his second narrative film, was a psychedelic transmutation of
Rabindranath Tagore's stage play by way of a diptych meta narrative that
excited me for its "fuck you" attitude and guerrilla style.
This latest film, Ludo
, a collaboration between Q and his Tasher Desh
editor who goes by the name Nikon, inches the Bengali cinema brat even
closer to being able to tell his stories, his way, while keeping the
narrative more focused and less abrasive, but only slightly.Ludo
with a girl, Ria, getting ready for a night on the town with her best
friend, Payel, in a double date. As the night wears on and the foursome
drinks themselves further and further into oblivion, it becomes patently
obvious that they all just want to fuck, and the dance of seduction
turns into a dance of desperation. They walk the streets of Kolkata
looking for a venue in which to satisfy their carnal desires they are
turned down at every local motel because none of them are married until
eventually Ria and Payel, being pragmatists and sexually liberated women
of the 21st century, decide to take matters into their own hands and
suggest the local shopping mall. Perhaps an odd choice, but it is late,
the mall will be empty, and why the fuck not?
This is when the shit begins to hit the fan.
cavorting about in the mall the group runs into an elderly woman who
entices them into a game of dice. As though they were hypnotized, three
of the group join in and things start to go a bit pear shaped when the
kindly older woman begins to eat one of the men after a particularly
fortuitous roll. From there the film begins to spin a tale of ancient
curses, man eating demons, supernatural incest, and blood. It's a bit of
a harsh transition, but the twist certainly grabs your attention and
opens up new doors for extreme horror in India, the kind of horror that
this country has never seen.
Far from a straight linear narrative, Ludo
itself more as an expressionist work of art than a generic horror film.
In this way, it is very much Q's work. Still abrasive and
confrontational, Ludo manages to find a more palatable balance between
the deliberately obtuse and intellectual stylings of its predecessors,
while still delivering a solidly thrilling narrative experience. Q and
Nikon are aiming for the gut here, moreso than the brain, and that is a
new direction for a filmmaker who has built his reputation on
idiosyncratic, cerebral films. It's a delicate mix, and Ludo
is certainly the closest Q has yet come to perfecting it.
much as I enjoyed it, this is definitely not a film for everyone, and
there's no way I can fault someone for finding its unique style and
structure unsatisfying. Like most of Q's other work, the film splits
itself into two well-defined parts that only resolve at the film's
climax. While this is not an unusual tactic, it is a uniquely Indian
version in which a flashback takes up a large continuous chunk of the
film's back end, rather than the more western style of cutting the
flashbacks into bits and piecing them throughout the film. It is
distracting, and I sometimes found myself wishing that the flashback
were more broken up so as not to take too much away from the main
narrative about the horny kids in the mall. However, the imagery
involved in the flashback is gorgeously lurid and bloody in a way that
Indian films haven't dared put on screen, so quality trumps trepidation
's pacing will also throw some audiences for a
loop, as we're not really even thrown any hints about the film's true
path until at least 30 minutes in. It follows the classic slasher
formula of kids trying to get laid, and instead ending up in pieces all
over the place, but it does it in a way that deceptively sidesteps the
audience's expectations, and perhaps offers a bit of a bait and switch.
Personally, the sleight of hand utilized by Nikon and Q to lull the
audiences into submission works for me, and I imagine that fans of more
challenging horror will find a lot to like about this film.
heard that Q was working on a horror film I had two initial reactions,
the first was was, "finally!", and the second was, "oh shit, how is he
going to pull that off?" Well, I think the answer with Ludo
clear, Q and Nikon made a horror film their own way, with their own
signature, and their own sensibilities clearly on view throughout. It
will piss some people off, it will alienate some viewers, and it will
bore some to tears. Those people who love it, however, will love it
fiercely and without reservation. I obviously count myself in the latter
With two solid art films in his rear view, and at least one amazing looking coming of age dirty comedy (B Naman
down the road, Q has carved himself a niche to which no other Indian
filmmaker has any access. This partnership with Nikon (and honestly, I
don't know who is responsible for what, but I know Q's style) is an
expectation smashing thriller that will leave audiences talking, one way
is the new face of Indian horror, it's a bloody good one!