X: Past is Present - Review

wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
quick review:

An intriguing experiment which I would recommend you watch, even if you might not like it as much as I did.

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X: Past is Past – the name and the fact that 11 directors took a go at one story together – is enough to warn you that it is not going to be your normal Hindi/Indian film. Or if you are me, it is enough to get you excited despite the niggle, “too many cooks...” However, X: Past is Present, pleasantly surprises. The most pleasant one being that it does not get tempted by the many opportunities to go overboard, with the abstract. It stays focused on its protagonist's introspection.

Sure, you could think of K (Rajat Kapoor) as a commitment-phobic, escapist. He says so himself. It is rubbed into his face and yours by each of his ex-girlfriends (or should we say X-girlfriends?) But, it is more about not learning much from the past. This is not about a middle-aged man coming of age, quite literally overnight. He might change after where the film left us, but you wouldn't be surprised if he went through X-XI more relationships that took the same trajectory. After all, if the person falling in love is the same, can who he falls in love with change his perspective, until he really wants to?

Until then, relationships will seem to carry a standard pattern. Which is why X: Past is Present feels repetitive and superficial at times. There are other times when it does give some insight, but then the moment/revelation is spoilt by spoon-feeding. Similarly, the camera angles do get a little annoying. At first, it looks like an attempt to be “cool/different” and then it gets a tad annoying. You feel like saying, “I get it, K is confused and you need handheld camera work to show me his internal turmoil. Got the point, please hold camera steady now.”

Even so, the consistency with which K's point of view is presented is something that got me interested in him. Even though I didn't get to know too much about the women, I found myself falling for K. The mystery that he is, the saving that he doesn't know he needs, appeals to the woman in me. And that is where X: Past is Present speaks subtly about how men and women approach relationships.

However, that sweeping generalization is not the focal point of the film. K does not represent all men. X: Past Is Present is the story of one man who has gone through many relationships and hasn't figured out what he wants yet. About a man who lets his past relationships come in the way of his present ones. About a man who is looking for closure and maybe has to go all the way back to the beginning to find it – possibly the point where he became K.

If the film weren't directed by 11 directors and written by even more people, it would come across as autobiographical. This is as much a compliment to the directors as it is to the editor. Dissecting the film director-wise or story-wise would be grave injustice to how smoothly it has all fallen in place.

Jerky editing and back and forth in timeline usually get irritating if done without purpose. Here though, the non-linearity follows K's very human flickering thoughts. The editing adds to the ambience of being in someone's mind. K switches from one thread in memory to another, following his mind's own concept of connect and fluidity.

However, when you do piece it together, it might not be a very interesting story. This is where the “how” wins over the “what”. Sensuousness is one of the constant tools through the film. There isn't explicit sex shown on screen, except once. And that once, it is not sexy at all. Yet, there is a palpable sexual tension irrespective of which woman is on screen.

The women characters, themselves might almost seem like clones of each other – maybe because the man in question gets attracted to a certain kind of woman. Most of the actresses were very functional and looked uncomfortable in their bits. However, you can always trust Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte and Swara Bhaskar to sizzle on screen and make even the most ordinary characters stand out. Aditi Chengappa does her bit to create intrigue, but that can be attributed more to the ambiguity of her character rather than her performance.

Whether or not any of these were important in the film, X: Past Is Present attempts to underline how the extra X needed in a man's life. Should the focus then have been so much on the physical attraction? Taking the overarching theme of lust as a given, despite a couple of predictable moments, the film keeps you curious, which is not what you can say of many Indian films today.

There is a mention of inanimate objects becoming a mode of communication between two people in a relationship. When it came up, I hoped that the theme would be expanded on a little more. The motifs stayed - watches, cigarettes, cups, etc but the theme didn't come back. Oh well, that would make for another film. And this once, maybe the directors can tell the reviewer, “you want a movie like that, you make it!”

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: One brutal, gory scene.
  • Language: Lots of abusive language
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A few making out scenes, a rape scene.
  • Concept: A man trying to figure out who he is.
  • General Look and Feel: Trippy

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 3.5
  • Story: 3.5
  • Lead Actors: 3
  • Character Artists: 3.5
  • Dialogues: 3
  • Screenplay: 4
  • Music Director: 3.5
  • Lyrics: 3.5

X: Past is Present - Trailer

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