'X: Past is Present' review: Rajat Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar add a cutting edge to this experimental film

Gayatri Gauri

Nov 20, 2015 11:42:47 IST

He is popularly called K. Not that there is anything Kafkaesque about him. Well, at least not initially. He hides behind his dark shades, even at night. He attracts women by the dozen.

X: Past is Present is the story of one night when K (Rajat Kapoor, who is extremely well cast), a film director, meets a young, nameless girl (Aditi Chengappa) who reminds him of his 11 ex lovers. With 11 directors helming each part of the story, it’s an editing marvel that the film is only 105 minutes long.

Considering how ambitious the intention is, in attempting to diversify the film into various genres and interpretations of love, it is commendable that the present life of K is well tied up with all the other stories set in the past. It just about makes it a watchable, cohesive whole, though not necessarily something that makes sense.

X: Past is Present review: Rajat Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar add a cutting edge to this experimental film

Rajat Kapoor in a still from X: Past is Present. Image from Youtube.

As one story seamlessly moves on to another, and the first few involving K’s sexual discoveries don’t leave much impact. In fact, the camera work distracts in it’s effort to show K as a filmmaker whose voice is mostly heard while we see his girlfriends in solo shots talking to a rapidly moving lens. Kapoor’s silky modulation is in sync with his character but his younger version (Anshuman Jha) sounds flat, until his face is seen in the last story. This treatment limits each story to repetitive frames, where we constantly see over the head shots of K speaking to each of his girlfriends.

The dialogues in most stories are in English and display amateurish writing. Some directors seem out of depth with the women characters and the relationships being explored. Everything remains mercurial, fleeting and superficial.

Each scene is mostly an ex’s episode and barely has enough substance to engage you with any of the women. There is an ex wife (Radhika Apte) who is aware of K’s affairs. Their interaction sounds as hollow as some of the other women who are merely shown in their lingerie, asking K about his non-committing ways. Each episode is meant to reveal his character more than the exes in question. One of the stories is an unfathomable take on Devdas featuring Rii Sen in a triple role. Rii stands out in her versatile looks, especially in a story that is more trippy than anything else. Another one deals with a story where a young K never meets the girl (Parno Mitra). Poetry and cinematography make a more worthy pair than the couple. Mind games comes into play in another story featuring Huma Qureshi.

The film comes on its own when a younger K is seen in Kerala. The previous overdose of close ups makes way to a more mature storytelling under the deft hand of director, Nalan Kumarasamy. The story suddenly moves into a thriller genre , revealing K’s past and full name. Swara Bhaskar and Jha inject the missing compassion for K into the predominantly Tamil script, with their outstanding portrayals.

As the story ends, the film reveals itself at a mystical and a surreal level, leaving you grasping with the reality of the existence of Aditi’s character as well as the ending.

The 11 directors (Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, Anu Menon, Hemant Gaba, Nalan Kumaraswamy, Pratim D Gupta, Raja Sen, Rajshree Ojha, Qaushiq Mukherjee, Sandeep Mohan, Sudhish Kamath and Suparn Verma) are commendable in their sheer originality. Other actresses like Richa Shukla, Neha Mahajan, Gabriella Schmidt, Bidita Bag, Pia Bajpai and Puja Ruparel make their presence felt despite their limited screen time. Produced by Manish Mundra (of Masaan fame), the film is a marathon feat involving several DOPs and editors.

X: Past is Present, made by 11 filmmakers, is like a hybrid rose plant. You have to ignore the thorns to appreciate a budding rose.

Updated Date: Nov 20, 2015 11:42:47 IST

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