Deep down a lot of us are romantics right?And one of the things that excites us the most is to get nostalgic over our romantic tales,some great,some not so great.Some funny, some tragic, some silly, some plain embarrassing. And in case one feels he/she hasn’t had a colourful life, you may still want to feel or pretend otherwise. There are so many topics that we talk about and things that we tend to do but often get bored of, but falling in love or reminiscing about an old romantic tale is usually not something that one ever gets bored of, well normally at least 🙂 . That’s why it’s no surprise that films like Cheran‘s Autograph (2004) or the recent Malayalam blockbuster Premam have done well. After all these films have an instant connect with our basic psyche, also this perhaps explains why I’ve been looking forward to X: Past is Present or X The Film as it was called earlier.
What started as a conversation between Sudhish Kamath, Shiladitya Bora & a few others during The Goa Project in early 2013 went on to become the seed for a collaborative film, a film which saw 11 different filmmakers coming on board to make one composite film. I mention this because the team has been very clear in communicating that its not an anthology film, as that’s what we would usually assume when we hear of multiple filmmakers joining hands for a film. And now thanks to Drishyam Films the film is finally out in a good number of theatres across the Country. In fact not only have 11 directors come together for the film, but interestingly enough the film also has involved 12 cinematographers and 9 editors as well, now if all this is not enough to make a discerning film lover interested and look forward to the film,then what else would you ask for? So now that the film has released its good to take note of how the film has shaped out eventually. When I was watching the film last night, I had a few questions in my mind. To start with would it actually appear as one seamless film or not as claimed? Will the film manage to balance style with substance?Will X: Past is Present go on to prove that such efforts make sense?
By now I’m sure you all know that the film is about K (Rajat Kapoor), a filmmaker and his encounters with various women at various points of time. One night at a party during a film festival/market, he comes across a mysterious lady,Aastha (Aditi Chengappa) and they share some quality time together. As they converse we are also given glimpses of K’s past which includes the stories of the women who have come and gone in his life. It takes some time to get used to the World of K & his women, things move around at an uneven pace at times, dictated perhaps by the narrative in question at that point in time. But slowly we realise that there’s a reason behind K being the way he is, even if it isn’t really spelled out as such. Though K moves on from one lady to another, it isn’t the same story always. Each chapter has its own subtle way of differentiating itself from the rest.If its experiencing lust for the first time with someone, then its falling in love with someone else. If its voyeurism experienced with someone then its the bond of marriage with someone else. Getting the drift right? K isn’t really a frivolous character as some of you might feel, its just that he isn’t quite clear as to what he wants from life, or from his ideal woman, or who is his ideal woman actually.
When even a regular film has its ups and downs and moments that you root for as well as moments that you despair about, then in a film like X: Past is Present it goes without saying that there would indeed be some portions which you go on to like a lot, while some portions could be a letdown and may not work for you. But this was expected and hardly surprising, what is good to note though is the seamless way by which everything is integrated to make a composite feature film despite the tale going through various shades, shapes & curves.Considering the number of people involved in the film, with various segments shot in different places with totally different teams, its quite an achievement indeed to ensure that you don’t end up watching 11 short films, instead of one single integrated feature film. And there’s a lot of care, ingenuity and tact used in ensuring that the lack of resources or budget constraints do not come in the way of the same. Interesting to see the way in which its usually the women who are in focus, despite the tale being centred around K, in some places K is actually just a voice or seen in the background, call it convenience or style but interesting it certainly is in terms of approach.
But as much as there is variety on display thanks to the different ways in which the tale is narrated and shot as well, it is also a little difficult to follow the proceedings, sometimes you even wonder what was that exactly for?Though its not probably fair to compare the various segments and analyze what works and what doesn’t, it goes without saying that there are certain parts in the film which really hold your attention the most, making you probably even overlook some of the other parts. Nalan Kumarasamy‘s segment which is written by Thiagarajan Kumararaja is easily the pick of the lot. In this tale based in a village in Tamil Nadu we see a young K (Anshuman Jha) getting seduced by the biriyani making village lady (Swara Bhaskar). And that Ilaiyaraaja tribute which springs up suddenly was indeed well done :).Starting off as an erotic tale on a humorous note, it shocks you with a totally unexpected twist. Sudhish Kamath’s segment (Rajat Kapoor and Aditi Chengappa) gets the most screen time as it cuts across the tale, integrating all the other segments together. The way the film ends with Sudhish’s segment blending into Nalan’s, is done quite well, what with another twist coming up as well. Pratim D.Gupta‘s Kolkata segment which talks of the simple old fashioned tale of love between 2 people who inhabit the same room, yet never meet is narrated very well, this could perhaps even work in isolation as well.
Rajat Kapoor is a natural and sinks into the character of K quite easily. Anshuman Jha seen as the younger K in the segments directed by Nalan Kumarasamy, Hemant Gaba and Raja Sen is also quite effective, playing the same character with variations in all the 3 segments. As for the women (and there are a lot of them in the film 🙂 ) Swara Bhaskar, Huma Qureshi, Parno Mitra leave an impact in the limited screen time that they appear in. Overall X: Past is Present appears as an interesting attempt and it is indeed one seamless film which is good in parts. But the parts which work have a lot going for themselves, making the attempt worthwhile to an extent. It is indeed heartening to see a film like this getting made and supported as well, hopefully this will go on to inspire and trigger off more such attempts.
Note- X: Past is Present is now playing across 115 screens with 265 shows overall across India, quite an achievement indeed for a small, experimental indie film.