LUDO – The Game Changer

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In conversation with Anurag Basu, IFFM 2021 winner best director – his philosophy in life “Inhale Life, Exhale Cinema”

Ludo is simply a game in which players move around a board with the throw of dice but when Anurag Basu decides to make a film, the title is only as a metaphor. Mr Sethi, chief editor of the Indian Weekly and G’day India sat down to zoom with the man himself discussing all things Ludo – winning IFFM21 Best Director Award.

The nuances of black comedy attempting this interconnected hyperlink will be a different genre.”  says Basu as the story was in the back of his head. He thought he’ll even start writing “if it works, it works” recalls Basu and within 20 days the structure was ready.

What came first, the name ‘LUDO’, Followed by the script or the other way around? Basu explains that the script came first as he was looking for a word or phrase to connect everything, which has a philosophical umbrella over the film. The title wasn’t an obvious choice. It was always a metaphor.

After receiving his degree in physics and completing BSc, what drove this science student to join films? He simply owes this to his parents. Being always involved with theatre he spent most of his time in rehearsal rooms growing up. Creativity ran in his genes, but they never thought it could be a profession, earning money and even seeing this as a career. Basu explains that joining films was never a long-term plan.  During his BSc degree in Mumbai, he aspired to study cinematography from FTII, Pune, he gave himself a timeline, a year. Bhilai being a small town in comparison to Mumbai, he wasn’t sure if he would end up being a director but one thing was sure, he wanted something in the creative field, perhaps to write. However, in the middle of his college years he had an opportunity to assist on a television show and luckily for him this industry was booming at that time. Soon he landed up a permanent job and since then he never looked back.

However, the universe had other plans for Basu. In 2004, just after the release of his film, Murder, he was diagnosed with leukaemia. No matter how much we like to put things in the past, it was a turning point that changed him, almost nearing death experience. “I think I cannot particularly pinpoint what has change me as a filmmaker and as a story teller inside me but the way I used to be in my life my priorities changed.’’

Basu candidly speaks about taking breaks between his two films because of having different priorities in life now; family, his daughter’s education, spending quality time and having a quality life with his family is his priority right now. Now he wants to make films that matters to him, inspires him and above all he believes in.

He is such an inspiration, but where does he get this courage?

Basu was not at all reluctant to share ‘it was not so easy’, even after the success of his film Murder, there was a phase after illness with his ongoing therapy, when people were not willing to sign him as a director; no one wanted to take that risk as lot of money was at stake; and so, he decided to go back to television. “Television was the rescue because I needed money for my treatment and survival; from there slowly I landed up with films again.” In fact, continuous working on the sets made everything easy for his treatment with chemo, the side effects were less, and he was on the road to recovery. 2004 also marked a good year for him as Ishana, his daughter came into his life…

Shifting gears on his films, and after Burfi being such a big hit, what, went wrong with Jagga Jasoos and Kites?

Basu explains that although Jagga Jasoos may not have worked at the box office, he always wanted to make this film, it was his decision, and he’s happy that the film eventuated. Jagga Jasoos was a musical concept as Bollywood by itself is a musical genre, “So Jagga was not at all disappointment for me” says Basu. As for Kites, it didn’t do well because the story he and his team imagined was not the final portrait.

When asked what gives him strength?

Basu’s strength is his Happiness as he deeply owes this to his father, who passed away but his father’s legacy lives on for Basu to cherish him as his role model. But these days Basu looks up to his daughters, the way they see their lives is very inspiring him and to his happiness.

Basu has never been to school to study film and so when Mr Sethi asked him if it important to be a screenwriter or a good director? Basu says “I write the film and structure it as it’s already made in my head.’’ Basu says he does his own set designing, cinematography and following the two pillars of story and directing, he explains there is more clarity while writing; one seems to visualise the film.

From Murder, Life in a Metro to Ludo, if he had to describe his journey in two lines, what would that be? To that Basu explains that his journey so far has been confusing as he is still trying to find his voice as a filmmaker. With no regrets in life he would want to be known as what his father preached “don’t earn money earn people”. So, while making Life in a Metro this philosophy resonated with him.

So especially with failures in my life, I wanted to earn as many people.”

What’s next for Basu? He giggles at the uncertainty of the pandemic, still, a domino effect where they are just catching up on the trail left behind with the lockdown.

A true admirer of Melbourne, he was here during the 2015 world cup, staying for one and a half months as he fell in love with Melbourne. He missed coming to Melbourne for IFFM 2021 due to the pandemic but we are hopeful we will see him soon once the international boarders open up.

As much as we would have loved to talk with the very inspiring Anurag Basu for hours, we couldn’t, but saying that we cannot thank him enough for his valuable insight about his journey.

As Mitu Bhowmick Lange director of IFFM dropped in to say Hello to both him and Mr Sethi, food just took over the conversation. We suspect him of being a good cook too.

For now, we not only wish him all the best of health and best of creativity but as a writer I personally cannot help quoting Albert Einstein “Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as there were none.”

By Nandita Chakraborty