X- Past is Present review: Too many cooks spoil this
X: Past is Present
Directors: Multiple (11 in all)
Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Anshuman Jha, Radhika Apte, Huma Qureshi
In the opening credits, there is a clock ticking backwards. Then comes the title — X: Past is Present. Neither is particularly clever. It’s only the rolling credits that tell of the experimental approach: 11 filmmakers have ‘co-directed’ X.
They write not so much individual stories thematically bound; nah, that would be too mainstream. They write chapters of the protagonist K’s life, told in flashbacks with a holding narrative. Kishan (Rajat Kapoor) goes only as K (your idea, Q? He’s one of the directors), makes intellectual cinema, wears dark glasses indoors, and is seemingly irresistible to women.
He meets one young woman at a bar and, once his irresistibility has been firmly established, goes on to reminisce about girlfriends past, and a wife. Some he tells the girl about (Attraction 101: tell tales of yourself as a womaniser), some stories play out in his head.
Fact merges with fiction and real life merges with cinema for K. The camera follows the male gaze; lustful at times (actually, most of the time), blurred when he’s under influence.
The camerawork is all very indie and in keeping with contemporary western sensibilities. You barely the see the face of the young K (Anshuman Jha). You could say X has the ‘feel’ of good experimental cinema.
The trouble is with the content. In one of the early stories, young aspiring filmmaker K is told by a producer to add “lots of sex” to his material. The filmmakers seem to have done the same in X. K’s lust, his propensity to cheat, become the thread that runs through the stories, to the point of negating any other aspect of his life.
There are snatches of good storytelling. A scarring adolescent experience (featuring Swara Bhaskar), a dinner-table scene that leads to a fight and feels real (featuring Radhika Apte), a love story lived through poetry where the lovers never meet.
But these are overwhelmed by the half-baked tales. A dominating woman (Huma Qureshi) who controls his life seems the oddest, and thoroughly out of sync with a boy who bravely follows a woman home, and readily admits to spying on another.
The other issue is one of excess. The central narrative, and the audience’s patience, is stretched thin trying to accommodate 10 stories. Eventually, you just want the film to get on with it,and get to the point.
Assuming the point was to focus on the women who shaped K, it’s thoroughly lost. X’s women are mere objects of desire, with no background.
Experiments are good. Hindi cinema certainly has room for more. But you run the risk of things blowing up in your face. That’s what this one does.