10 Films to Watch if You Liked Ludo on Netflix
A romantic ventriloquist, an average mall worker, an ex-criminal, and a heartbroken waiter. A girl who wants to settle with a rich man, a wild Malayali nurse with a language problem, a girl seeking the love of her parents, and a jaded housewife too faithful to her infidel husband. The pairs get matched by the color codes of the popular board game and hyperlink with a funny gangster and the god of death. An anthology of four black comedy thrillers with ingredients of philosophy, romance, and human connections sprinkled in, Ludo (2020) has various flaws and it is really bumpy, with huge pacing issues. And yet, the style manages to carry some substance because of the charming performances from great actors such as Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi. It is that rare Hindi film which is entirely flawed, yet fascinating.
With Ludo, Anurag Basu caters to the audience with some realistic dialogue, but he still leaves ample room to create the world of his imagination. With varying topographies, a non-linear approach to the screenplay, and eye-popping colors, Ludo manages to linger in its eccentric world making it both absurd and amusing. It’s old wine for Basu – his TV series ‘Story By Rabindranath Tagore’ was constructed almost entirely on a hyperlink and a better offering. This time, he takes a lot more references and doesn’t stick to specific source material. All the same, the unusual structure of the film has resulted in a huge number of people appreciating it. If you are one of those who enjoyed Ludo, check out these 10 similar films immediately:
1. Delhi Belly (2011)
In a hilarious scene unfolding at a hospital, Sattu played by Pankaj Tripathi says, “When luck suck, everyone f*ck.” Directed by Abhinay Deo, ‘Delhi Belly’ personifies this dialogue. Three mediocre and unsuspecting roomies somehow find themselves in the clutches of a dreaded gangster for a few diamonds and what follows the narrative is a super-odd mix of bizarre with a pitch-black sense of humor.
As sly as it is enjoyable, Delhi Belly is perhaps the sharpest and filthiest black comedy of Indian cinema. Starring Imran Khan, Kunal Roy Kapoor, Vir Das, and Vijay Raaz, this rare Indian English feature blends different characters with the most unconventional situations. At its heart though, the film weaves an odd narrative about brutality, greed, and even the shallow male entitlement – doing so successfully due to the nail-biting tension and shamelessly ridiculous jokes, all of which work well.
However strange this might sound, Delhi Belly is good because the parts are better than the whole. This is one of the film’s strengths as a few bizarre portions are so memorable that they instantly come across as an experience that is quite unmissable. It also holds as a satire on the upper-class-wedding obsessions, and a lesson on how greed is the greatest gangster. What is also impressive is that not a single minute is wasted in any kind of world-building. This is what Indian black comedy should look like. It isn’t perfect, but somehow it is also ideal.
Watch Delhi Belly online on Netflix
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2. Snatch (2000)
Guy Ritchie might not be among the better filmmakers out there, but the ideas don’t lack imagination. ‘Snatch’, arguably his most popular work as a director is one of the few instances where the ideas get where they need to be. A bizarre black comedic creation, Snatch has futile action-packed proceedings. The influences of which show in the initial and middle acts of Anurag Basu’s latest. Taking a complicated plot and wildly running through its various twists and turns, the film is very much self-centered: the plot is the real deal. But the thrills this story has to offer when compiled with the unmitigated, crazy performances by the ensemble, especially the tightly humorous Brad Pitt, make for an experience that makes it more than just a watchable affair.
The one trouble I have had with Ritchie’s cinema is how thinly the strands are intertwined to form a narrative: Aladdin (2019), for example, tried too hard to fit into the passable category despite a dreamy magnificence, marvelous production design, and a good source. However, Snatch clearly aims for perfection, and even as it doesn’t achieve it, it is still a solid film with a steady plot. The film also has some attractive, stylized action, but it isn’t there just for the heck of it; serving some purpose to the sly structure. If caricaturish names of major characters and oversimplified filmmaking work in a crime drama, you know that’s going to be one hell of an unmissable comedy ride.
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3. Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017)
I liked the atrocious chemistry that Fatima Sana Shaikh and Rajkummar Rao share in their part of the film – the ‘Green’ narrative of Ludo. It has been lifted by the endearing charm of Rao as a good-for-nothing Mithun Da fan who is besotted by Pinky – the only love of his life who is a married woman with a baby now. He is sweet and injects a refreshing spin to the worn-out Devdas-syndrome. If you liked his performance in the film, check out Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Bareilly Ki Barfi, a delightful small-town romantic-comedy, where Rao plays Pritam Vidrohi, a simple man disguised as an arrogant asshole. The way the ‘Newton‘ actor turns from the average Joe to an instantly likable rowdy, is simply excellent. The way he quickly changes his body language and tone is so funny that you can imagine no one but Rajkummar to come and inhabit the role.
However, the similarities don’t end there. Some of the plot points also resemble the ‘Yellow’ narrative in Ludo – the one starring Sanya Malhotra and Aditya Roy Kapoor. That aside, the film manages to be a success as a sweet rom-com because there’s a lot of fun to be had if the cheesiness of tone is kept aside. The performances by the excellent Rajkummar Rao, a subtle Pankaj Tripathi, and a surprisingly in-form Kriti Sanon sustain it. What I liked about the film was that notwithstanding the men were stronger in their writing than the central woman itself. It is the protagonist – a small-town girl Bitti, who has more authority. She breaks into dances and smokes cigarettes, but she isn’t an ’empowered woman’. She is just an independent and quirky girl who just can’t come to terms with the awful expectations of men looking for wives.
Watch Bareilly ki Barfi online on Netflix
4. Super Deluxe (2019)
Ludo (2020) takes so many tonal inspirations from Super Deluxe that it becomes almost impossible not to notice them after a point. This too is a hyperlink anthology, but the comical weirdness works much better here because the characters have distinct energy that occupies them. Some stories work better than the others, but all of it comes together in the end in a humorous, entertaining way. The darkly funny blend of a blooming post-marriage romance, of acceptance and forgiveness, of crime drama and a gangster’s subplot – don’t feel overstuffed just for the heck of it. Tamil filmmaker Thiagarajan Kumararaja delivers each of these stories with a unique sense of atmosphere. In the end, you see something of yourself in the flawed, typical characters because at its core, it’s a film about a nation in general and the ideas its people buy into.
The film, on the surface, has no right to work. A few passages involving police brutality and toxic masculinity are too problematic. The well-shot film is too busy but the film still stretches for almost three hours. However, the way the characters have been written, and the colorful cinematography by Nirav Shah, evoke laughter, thrill, and a genuinely heart-warming sense of nostalgia. Also, it bears scarce similarity with any other genre drama with a watertight screenplay that is highly original when looked across from the problems.
Watch Super Deluxe Online on Netflix
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5. Jagga Jasoos (2017)
Anurag Basu has famously employed the Bengal references in his recent films for taking visual cues at the vivid, joyful worlds that he creates which is also present in Ludo’s ‘Red’ part of the narrative. If you want more of the same, Jagga Jasoos should be your film. Set in Bengal and starring a spectacular Ranbir Kapoor in an unusually comforting child-like presence, the global adventure drama takes touches from the adventure comics of Tintin and plays with a consistently goofy tone in an almost uncontrolled way. While it didn’t find resonance (which includes me) with many and was both a critical as well as box-office failure, I would still recommend this film because it always stays true to its genre and has such a touching musical quality to it that it becomes a film about why we watch Disney and Wes Anderson‘s cinema.
The film’s flaws are noticeable sans the running time doesn’t sit too well. Also, the film exhausted me with its stretched action and lack of twists. Also, Katrina Kaif extracts a grating performance out of an otherwise adorable character. But just like Ludo, Anurag Basu’s whimsicality is not just a part of the narrative, it is the narrative. He isn’t looking for subtlety or the dark corners of the minds of his characters but his cinema is still aiming high. Perhaps the reason for Jagga Jasoos’s commercial and critical failure was that people didn’t buy the brave, straightforward way in which the film goes to be a comic book-like detective drama. If you liked how the father of the ‘Red’ story pleads to meet his daughter after a prolonged period, you’ll definitely love the father-son dynamics of Jagga and his father.
Watch Jagga Jasoos Online on Netflix
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6. Lootcase (2020)
Besides sharing the same genre and being a better film, Lootcase’s plot about an ordinary man finding an extraordinarily relevant red suitcase in the dead of the night bears a similarity with the ‘Blue’ narrative of Anurag Basu’s Ludo. Starring a terrific ensemble of actors such as Kunal Khemu, Ranvir Shorey, Rasika Duggal, Vijay Raaz, and especially the humorous Gajraj Rao, Rajesh Krishnan’s freshman feature has some compelling writing. The lightweight but often funny portions of black comedy are effective even when the film’s tone remains inconsistent. The characters are more than borderline one-note characters people and despite being a little familiar, there’s comfort and audacity in the style with which such a talented cast delivers. Ludo (2020) also takes up a few stylistic choices similar to this one.
The film is candidly enjoyable and has songs and dances with action scenes but it doesn’t care to please the crowd either. It makes wise choices narratively and is suggestively sexy. I particularly enjoyed the way director Krishnan builds the world around Nandan Kumar: the characters from the chawl are portrayed as ordinary people with ordinary problems and despite Nandan being the ‘unlikely hero’, he is not heroic – he is fearful of the bizarre circumstances that the suitcase might cause, cherishes his honest wife, and politely does his job. However, the best thing about the film is the corrupt politician Patil played by Gajraj Rao, who is crafty in his dialogue delivery and dangerously polite, just like Sattu played by Pankaj Tripathi in Ludo.
Watch Lootcase Online on Disney+ Hotstar
7. Bombay Talkies (2013)
I can’t think of a better anthology film coming out of India than Bombay Talkies. But the film finds a place on the list, not because it is an anthology just like Ludo (2020). It is here because the world that Anurag Basu has created in Ludo, is infused with maniacal energy and its spirit is through its various characters, which is similar to Bombay a city that never sleeps. However, what makes Bombay Talkies so different from the other Mumbai-set films is that it doesn’t bear any cliché of a Mumbai film. The four stories have four contrasting themes, and it is about the cinematic spirit of the city in general.
Karan Johar’s perceptive exploration of homosexuality invites Dibakar Banerjee’s brilliant exploration of the life of a theatre artist trying to double up as a struggling actor. As that ends, we are forwarded to Zoya Akhter’s (ineffective) short film about a boy who wants to dance like Katrina Kaif and dress like girls which makes way for Anurag Kashyap’s Benaras-to-Bombay story about a generational fandom and a nostalgic jar of pickles which is a metaphor of our love for film.
While one story and climax away from perfection, Bombay Talkies is bittersweet, and each story has a different hue: Ludo felt like a flashier spiritual sequel.
Watch Bombay Talkies online on Netflix
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8. Amores Perros (2000)
Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s first film, Amores Perros is a consistently terrific debut from one of the modern masters. While not one of his best-directed efforts, it certainly is one of the finest plots for a black comedy crime drama. At the film’s center are a few characters who have deliciously amoral intentions. The difference being that the ‘lack of morality’ is not straightforward but with many layers. Making stylistic choices, the film satires on the harshest of human realities with masterful precision.
Apart from being a hyperlink anthology that serves as a dog-biting black comedy, it is similar to Ludo because at its core the plot of running with another man’s wife is similar to Ludo’s “Green” narrative. Gael García Bernal delivers a rocking performance as a man unable to let go of his love but strong enough to face the circumstances. Amores Perros is darker, bloodier, and it doesn’t have Ludo’s musical ‘lightness.’ But the touches of meditation and the philosophical pay-offs feel to bridge the differences between the two opposite black comedies. Amores Perros is a rare film that can be associated with both gritty brutality and impassioned sentiment. It packs in both with a morbid, subtextually nuanced and a sly sense of humor.
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9. Ee. Ma. Yau (2018)
Lijo Jose Pelliserry is Malayalam cinema’s master. Few filmmakers explore the hypocrite and brittle entrances of the human mind as he does. Even in his relatively weaker films, a visual symphony enters the vacant spaces of filmmaking. While nothing makes his masterpiece Ee. Ma. Yau similar to Ludo in an apparent manner, the central theme of how funny death can be is what the Anurag Basu film also has as an underlying message. A terrific film about how the death of a parent evokes strong sentiment in a reckless son and political, social, and religious chaos among the people around the family, Ee. Ma Yau explores the life of people with sensitivity and sympathy and manages to mock them at the same time. Gloom surrounds the film for its immensely transportive quality and a charming visual flair. The frames are always busy but the climax delivers the film’s essence in the most perfect way possible. The shot of the messengers of heaven and hell respectively come to take the film’s dead and ultimately the film earns it’s anesthetic intoxicating blend of mythicism and verism.
Similarly, Ludo shows Yamraj, the Hindu god of death, playing Ludo with Chitragupt – his accountant, and eventually deciding the fate of these characters and makes choices on who should face an obstacle and who shouldn’t. Ultimately, there’s a shootout in the end that decides who should be killed and who shouldn’t. Both films use mythology and religious beliefs to comment on death, the most unvarnished truth of life.
Watch Ee Ma Yau online on Prime Video
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10. Wild Tales (2014)
An airplane with a cosmic coincidence in which every passenger seems to be related to a psychotic musician named Gabriel Pasternak; who also happens to be the chief cabin officer of the plane, an MLA candidate walks into a restaurant that has ruined the life of its waitress is eventually murdered by its owner in the presence of his son. Two men are driven in their pursuit of revenge and a road rage action is mistaken as a ‘crime of passion’. A man seeks his complaint about his car being hauled is ruined, and he ultimately reaches a heroic status by seeking the ultimate revenge. A wealthy teen’s hit-and-run puts the servant of his house to risk. And lastly, a bride who finds out about the infidelity of her husband wreaks havoc at the reception party.
Damián Szifron’s wildly fascinating black comedy anthology of these six standalone short films is a visual marvel that is entertaining in the best sense of the word. Ambitiously structured and cleverly executed, the film has a fable-like quality to its terrific writing, and the actors to perform the characters are as wonderfully expressive. It is one of those rare films which come out exactly like they want to. Thematically, it’s the most similar to Ludo, because despite taking flights of fancy, it is also rooted in realism. Apart from that, what I loved about the film was that it never sticks to complete what it started: somehow each story has a proper beginning and a sprawling end, but somehow each of them feels incomplete, and that makes it perhaps the most wonderfully satisfying, and easily my favorite film that is similar to Ludo (2020) on this list.
Watch Wild Tales Online on Amazon Prime
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