In the portion directed by Sudhish Kamath, who has also initiated the production, we meet K (Rajat Kapoor) at the bar at a movie event. K is trying to be cool (his goggles stay on indoors), and even in the dark, his wandering eye picks out a woman young enough to be his daughter (Aditi Chengappa). Could she, in fact, be the daughter of his first true love? If she is, this isn’t the movie to debate the merits and demerits of cradle snatching and why pre-menopausal men are attracted to pretty young women.
As K spends the night with his new friend, he is reminded of the various women in his life. These include his ex-wife (Radhika Apte), the woman to whom he lost his virginity (Huma Qureshi), a lover who desperately wants his baby (Pooja Ruparel), and a maid (Rii) to whom he narrates a story in a drug-fuelled haze. The connections between these various strands are poorly made, and since they have been shot by different cinematographers, there is no unified style to the narrative.
Some of the chapters exist unto themselves with no connection or consequence to K’s present. A bruising incident in a small town in Tamil Nadu (directed by Nalan Kumarasamy and featuring Swara Bhaskar and Anshuman Jha as K’s younger self) is stacked against a pointless mock job interview with a domineering lover (directed by Raja Sen and starring Huma Qureshi). If the reminiscences add up to anything, it is that Indian women are truly starved of good company, and will go to any lengths to divest themselves of good sense when the opportunity presents itself.
If the movie hadn't treated K's pronouncements as gospel, it could have skewered his infantilism. Delivered in a mix of Hindi and Indian English, the dialogue produces such gems as “K is not a name, it’s a mask” and “Women don’t like [Salman] Rushdie for what he writes. They like him for what they cannot understand.”
There are almost as many women in this movie than in a Mumbai ladies-only train compartment, but none of them has a mind of her own. Swara Bhaskar and Radhika Apte have the only roles that can charitably be described as meaty, but the predatory camerawork (boob shots abound) reduces all the female characters to mere objects. The line between K’s voyeurism and that of the filmmakers isn’t always clear, and only the segment by the director Q, featuring his muse Rii, marries image and intent with any coherence.
As is the case with movies about movies, X Past is Present is its own best and worst critic. “Everybody has just one story to tell, and you can’t even do that properly,” declares a character. That is all that needs to be said about this amateurish and poorly acted attempt at deconstructing romance, heartbreak and the merging of reality with fiction.
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