X: PAST IS PRESENT
Directed by: Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, Anu Menon, Hemant Gaba, Nalan Kumarasamy, Pratim D. Gupta, Q, Raja Sen, Rajshree Ojha, Sandeep Mohan, and Suparn Verma.
Starring: Aditi Chengappa, Bidita Bag, Gabriella Schmidt, Huma Qureshi, Neha Mahajan, Parno Mitra, Pia Bajpai, Pooja Ruparel, Radhika Apte, Richa Shukla, Rii Sen and Swara Bhaskar with Anshuman Jha and Rajat Kapoo
Synopsis: A filmmaker remembers the various women of his life as he makes his way through a film festival after party.
At times, there are movies where their concept or gimmick is much more interesting than the actual execution. Thankfully, X is not one of those movies. The movie centers around a single character, K, as he makes his way through a film festival after party with various flashbacks depicting past romances. The movie has a total of 11 prominent filmmakers directing the various segments, all of which lead to a unique cinematic experience that ended up being a rather poignant and serious meditation on various issues about the film industry, nostalgia, and broken people.
K is an aging filmmaker, who, at the beginning, looks world-weary and jaded. He's been around the movie scene for a long time, and it shows. He talks to a few ladies at an after party when he meets a particular woman who triggers what could be called an existential crisis as he recounts all of his previous exes that somehow influenced his life. While each of the shorts has their own feel, there are a few where K's face is purposefully obscured and all of the focus is on the women that he deals with signifying that the women are actually more important than him.
The best thing about the movie is the writing. Each one of the segments is clever in their own way. There was one in particular where a young K is pitching a movie about the romance of an object that can bond two people together even if they don't meet. Then, that story line is picked up in what appears to be a different segment as he shares a share room with woman who stays there during the day while he stays there during the night thanks to their weird schedules.
K, being the star of the movie, is a very dynamic character. At first, he comes off as a jaded been-there done-that kind of guy who's really confident. But as the evening goes on, you realize there have been some real tragedies in his life, some self-imposed and some where he was just unfortunate. Later on in the movie, K mentions to a woman about how he prefers his life's narrative to match that of a movie, and he even plays out how a hotel scene would happen if it was a Hollywood, Bollywood, or even an indie movie.
K is a broken man who might be beyond help. It's clear he's been that way for a while. In his first chronological appearance, he's filming a woman undressing across the street. In a later scene, he got his girlfriend at the time to help him practice a pitch for a script, and his girlfriend berates him to the point of him breaking down. This particular moment was poignant because it showed how K only relied on nostalgia and a glorified version of his past to create his narratives, like the movie is trying to say that nostalgia is a crutch for broken people.
It should be important to note that the movie does weave in and out of the present and the future in a way that can be a little disorienting in the beginning, which is honestly the biggest complaint about the movie. It's only until you're about 20-30 minutes into the movie that you get a good grip on the structure of the movie. However, there was an interesting effect where one of the women that K is talking to whose voice was distorted throughout the segment. Hopefully this ties to a larger thematic point rather than just a technical error.
X is going to be one of the biggest surprises of the year for people that get a chance to see it. The numerous directors gimmick help give K a more rounded look as a character and a person, and it's sometimes funny, sad, tragic and joyful just like life is. This might seem like a strange comparison, but this movie has more than a few a parallels to Federico Fellini's masterpiece 8 1/2, or more aptly, the musical NINE with the constant flashbacks about a troubled filmmaker with fidelity issues and creative roadblocks. Track this movie down if you can since by the time this review comes out, it will be too late to see it at SAIFF.