Rii, who plays a key role in Ludo, sports a sari and a bikini (below) with the ludo design. “Ludo is a game of chance. It is also about design. The design is fluid and can appear on different surfaces in many ways. And the piece of material the design appears on takes on a whole new character. Your perception of the board game is going to change after this film,” smiled Q.
A shroud of mystery hangs over the shoot of the fantasy thriller Ludo, directed by Q and Nikon (editor of Q’s Tasher Desh). Everything is hush-hush and “top secret” about the shoot that’s on in Purulia! Made under the banner of Overdose Joint, Q’s production house, Ludo is co-produced by Idyabooster and Starfire Movies. Q gives t2 the lowdown.
Last September, in an interview to t2, Nikon had said that Ludo is a historical-horror film. What’s your take on the horror genre?
The first film that completely blew my mind was Takashi Miike’s Audition. I remember getting scared watching Audition around 2001, and then I started watching a slew of films ranging from fantasy thrillers, horror, extreme gore to psychological horror. Michael Haneke’s Funny Games starts off as psychological horror, gets into physical violence, then gets into extreme gore… it is a social satire, has many subtexts. This genre I realised offered this entire landscape of opportunities because the final destination was you got to make them scared! If you can scare people you can do whatever else you want. A Robert Rodriguez film won’t have anything to say, they’ll (the characters) go on a mayhem. In the same way, if you see a Spanish film called REC, it’s wall-to-wall mayhem but with serious subtext. All kinds of films got made and horror emerged as a subversive form by itself. Then I found out about ’70s horror films and low-budget horror techniques. Even in Gandu there is this element of darkish extreme horror space, but it does not materialise as an evil force. That was not the intent of that story.
Why the name Ludo?
Definitely it has to do with the game, which is quite interesting. The word ludo, along with the game, is in our cultural fabric. The whole of India played ludo at one point of time. And strangely, overnight the game vanished! You don’t see it anywhere. No one plays ludo now! But ludo was in such an accessible space… every household had a ludo board. The design was also very commonplace. The dice game has its roots in India, and games were being played for more than 1,000 years. Our starting point is how, and from where did ludo come? This is like a game film also. It’s about the game, it’s about the intricacies of the game… but ludo is not an intricate game at all. It is quite simple which is why anyone can play it. But then it is also a game of chance… it’s got a strange sort of spiralling technique which grabs your attention, otherwise why would you play such a game?! We found these sort of things quite interesting and we started building on those.
Why direct Ludo with Nikon?
Nikon is the domain expert. He is into the horror zone, he has done significant amount of research on the development of horror in cinema. And, we are playing this game and for a game you need two players (laughs).
What have you set out to achieve in Ludo?
Oriental horror is different from Western horror. Nikon and I discussed the Orientalist mode of darkness and how we can achieve that in Ludo. Horror films have always been popular but the horror is also localised.
How is Oriental horror different from Western horror?
The main thing is the concept of evil, the concept of absolute. We don’t have a concept of absolute. Nothing is absolute. Brahmar flaw achhe, Vishnu is impure... karoor-i shobta thik nei. Our mythology has a mobility which Western mythology doesn’t have. Fear is something very old. It’s one of the base instincts. So the fight with fear is also very old. Meanwhile, no one is afraid of Bangali bhoot (laughs)!
Because of the absence of the absolute. Since there is no absolute god, there can’t be absolute evil. Jomraaj, Jomdut aamader kacche hashhokor podartho!
What about the ghost stories in Bengali literature?
That also relies on a rustic culture. Our negotiation with the urban space is so new that we have not been able to get into the morbidity of it yet.
Is Ludo a supernatural thriller?
We are combining... we are calling it a fantasy thriller, and we are trying to connect it to a present reality. Our film is not like Haneke’s. His films are set in a highly urbanised, civil society where rules are clearly defined. And when those rules are broken, the psychological game is played, like in Funny Games. We are going into the nebular zone of the supernatural.
Do we get to see certain tropes of horror films like the blood and gore, nudity and sex in Ludo?
All that should be there, and will be… we are stepping into a grey zone and a lot of things in our films develop while we are shooting.
What is the sound of Ludo?
We are running a contest (Ludo Movie Rock Band Contest is calling Bangla bands to upload their edgiest, most hard-core songs on the Ludo FB page; winner gets to feature in the film). The song will be one of the opening tracks, so it’s quite important to get a great track. For the rest of the film, Neel Adhikari will design the music.