X: Past is Present have been mistakenly described as an anthology film. The narrative actually deals with a filmmaker and his experiences with the various women in his life which appears as more or less individual episodes. And each of the episodes are directed by different directors which could have possibly made it an anthology of styles but ends up only in a mewling annoyance which can only be called an anthology of clichés. It is the 21st century and debating over originality is as redundant an exercise as possible; but a film like X with its uninspired writing, images and sound really puts the entire practice or even the business model in question.
The film opens with the image of the protagonist played by Rajat Kapur, drinking alone at a bar in the midst of rather loud party. The lack of depth and the onslaught of clichés become apparent right from there. This man is a filmmaker facing crises in personal as well as creative spheres. Wearing a pair of wayfarers like Jean Luc Godard, it is never clear why this caricature of a character is ranting about his failure! Perhaps Guido in Fellini’s Eight And a Half has provided the quintessential template for on-screen crisis ridden filmmakers. He also keeps mentioning Woody Allen in the passing and has a personal definition of cinema that sounds only like Bollywood. Oh, and he is called K. Kafka anyone?
And then in the guise of an ‘in-depth portrayal’ of an artiste, comes a series of sexcapades that encompasses every possible stereotype right from the teenage love to mysterious neighbor to sultry mistress to maid servant to a failed marriage with an abortion trope to name just a few! And just to ensure political correctness, he is also subjected to a homosexual rape! And all through these utterly forgettable scenes, there is not a single cinematic moment or encountered that one can engage with. Amateurish at best, they mostly look like student exercises in mid-semester. The mid-shots, the unnecessary camera movements, the synthetic sound design with an overabundance of background music! Even the Point-of-View strategy fails as it becomes counter-intuitive to the narrative or rather the screenplay itself. The audience is never introduced to the artiste’s work/world; not even a sneak peek. Thus the recalling of memories is like a shot-reverse shot scenario where one set of shots are just missing.
Within this debacle, only the segment titled ‘Ice Maid’ directed by Q manages to stick out in an odd fashion. Using the same actress (Rii) to play all the women including the maid servant as well as the characters inside K’s head, Q manages to somewhat underline the idea of the filmmaker trapped in a maze of redundancy. Even the film (or rather the screenplay) within the film, a rather hallucinatory take on Devdas, is laced with the director’s repetitive yet signature style in terms of camera movements, sounds effects and color palette. But even that is unable to redeem the film as a whole.
On a concluding note it is indeed disheartening to see performers like Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte and Swara Bhaskar wasted in pointless roles and some heartfelt performances such as those by Pooja Ruparel and Pia Bajpai wasted in a half-baked and arrogantly pretentious excuse for a screenplay!
Arup Ratan Samajdar
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