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Trivia / Goofs
Times of India
This ambitious venture has 11 intertwined stories running in the same narrative about a filmmaker K and his many muses.
This film can be best described as a bizarre, underwhelming hotch-potch. Though some of these 11 sub-stories do show that rare streak of brilliance, most of them are sheer duds. The common thing binding them all is that they are unmistakably pretentious.
Of the many, it is Pratim D Gupta's story about a man and a woman living under the same roof at different times, and falling in love in a quaint way, which is striking. The old-world charm lies in its wooden almairah, the acoustic guitar and its poetry. None of the other plots quite condenses the idea of love so deeply. Though all stories are about unrequited love, this one feels the most complete one of the lot.
The most disappointing one came from Q,who tries his hand at an abstract idea but his attempt doesn't translate well. His plot is sinister, paints a macabre milieu, has his risque quality, and yet, the story doesn't come together.
A film is an amorphous mass and on that count, this one doesn't deliver. Its scattered screenplay makes the subplots feel disjointed. The protagonist K is caricaturish - a restless artist stuck in creative limbo, narrating his escapades (romantic liaisons and sexcapades).
Since a lot of the film plays out in flashback, the stories often jarringly overlap. Sometimes in middle of all the absurdity playing on screen, the film tells you that every filmmaker has one story that he retells differently each time, which justifies the repetitiveness of the plots.
It is tolerable in parts, sometimes inventive, often mediocre but never half as good as it claims to be. As the protagonist shifts between startling you and disgusting you, the leading ladies take the cake. Radhika Apte, Swara Bhaskar and Huma Qureshi are unforgettable.
Avoid X: Past is Present. It will fail to suit your filmi palettes and make you stay away from biryani for life with a very grotesque reference.
You can do without such negativity.
A joint failure
The 'joint' also refers to what the 11 directors of this film smoked while making it. Anatomically, it is a single story, with each maker helming different parts. Assuming equitable distribution of screen time, each maker has less than 10 minutes. So if one story got unbearable, you'd have to suffer it for only as long. But when consecutive parts annihilate your brain cells, there's no running or hiding.
It opens to a night club hosting a "networking party". Our hero, K (Rajat Kapoor) is a film director. As he makes aimless conversation with a girl at the party, words and phrases trigger memories and we cut into them. Each relates to a woman: an ex-lover, wife, maid or sex worker. In one (by Rajshree Ojha), K is seen as a doting husband serving dinner to his wife Rija (Radhika Apte). Soon, their hollow relationship is revealed and Rija admits to have "gotten rid of the child". In another, (by Pratim D Gupta), a young K (Anshuman Jha) works all night and rents an apartment from 8 am to 8 pm. The same is occupied by a Shiuli (Parno Mittra) during the hours that K is out. Boy doesn't meet girl, yet they fall in love by exchanging Gulzar poems. It ends abruptly when K leaves the apartment, having found his 'muse'.
The worst is the sequence where K is tripping on hallucinogens and brainstorming with his bai to complete a script. Since he's high, we should be too. So the director (Q) ensures every frame is offfocus and the stream of thought like a whirlpool. Someone is frantically knocking on the door and there's a "paro andar bhi and bahar bhi". The door opens to a blurry vision pointing a gun at him. What happens next isn't comprehensible but you're glad it's over.
Rajat Kapoor tries his best to not crack under mediocre writing yet fails to make this film bearable. Anshuman Jha is promising and manages to convey the uncertainty that comes with innocence effectively.
The dialogues can make college films seem like Godard. Accused of clearing his "browser history", K says, "My junk is always full." In another, a character says, "We're looking intensely into each other's eyes like we're going to kill a baby."
The film may be called X: Past is Present, but it surely promises a headache in the immediate future.
The film is directed by a team of eleven filmmakers including Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, Anu Menon, Nalan Kumarasamy, Hemant Gaba, Pratim D. Gupta, Q, Raja Sen, Rajshree Ojha, Sandeep Mohan, Sudhish Kamath and Suparn Verma.
The film is not an anthology but a single story with eleven directors making sections of it.