A man craving for a ray of cheer and a sprightly young girl. Bar lights, night walks and carefree banter leading to a hotel suite. No wonder you are hit by a bout of deja vu. Swara Bhaskar in a sultry red sari with a clear ‘come hither’ expression on her face, and you are ready for some sleaze. But what ‘X’ has in store will take you by surprise. A rear-view narrative that brings together 11 confidently executed episodes, the film weaves on screen a fresh cinematic syntax. And, ‘X’ clocking 105 minutes, is directed by an ensemble of 11 directors who include Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, Anu Menon, Hemant Gaba, Nalan Kumarasamy, Pratim D Gupta, Q, Raja Sen, Rajshree Ojha, Sandeep Mohan, Sudhish Kamath and Suparn Verma.
‘X’ is the story of K, who makes a fashion statement with his philandering. A filmmaker by profession, he has a sleek, uber-cool shell, but is broken inside. He meets a mysterious girl at a party and her presence breaks open a guarded floodgate of memories and the film pieces together the ghosts from his past - his ten ex women.
Rajat Kapoor as the commitment-phobic K is a delight to watch as he lends an unusual edge and eloquence to his character. The fragments of K’s past stream out in a non-linear and sometimes disorienting style, with all the randomness of a hypnotic graffiti. It’s not a familiar idiom, but easily intriguing as it captures every scent and stench of K’s intimate encounters.
‘X’ is also a collage of genres, styles and tones where each director leaves his signature without breaking the basic flow of spontaneity. ‘X’ has a tagline which says ‘past is present’ and in the film past unravels in a series of extreme close-ups. The faces of K’s women loom large allowing performance to play out, strung together by exceptional editing. Each story is marked by a unique atmospheric, and the juxtaposition of shots clever and impressive.
Sudhish Kamath, one of the directors who attended the festival, says they broke the chronology to keep the mood and tempo intact. “We wanted to retain that random feel, the erratic way memory behaves,” he says. Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, who is the director of critically-acclaimed ‘Oass’, says at first he had doubts about associating with ten others. “I was worried about clashing sensibilities and whether I would be able to co-exist with so many others in a creative process and survive the stress of it,” he says.
‘X’ started with a simple outline - the story of a filmmaker who is haunted by the memories of his exes. “But if one person pens the whole script it will become redundant without any variety. So we went for individual scripts exploring each woman in a different genre,” says Sudhish.
Sudhish and Abhinav say they wanted filmmakers with varying sensibilities. “There are different kinds of cinema in India and ‘X’ is an attempt to build a bridge between them. So filmmakers who are totally different from each other with a very disparate style of storytelling were picked up. Then we had a script workshop in Mumbai with all the eleven, where we sorted out the script. By that time the entire frame changed and I had to rewrite my part. My story initially was a romantic one and it ended up as a mystery,” says Sudhish.
Abinav says though ‘X’ is an experimental venture, directors were given total artistic freedom. “At the same time we didn’t want eleven short films, and it was possible only if all the filmmakers let go of their egos and work as a happy big family,” he says. “I think a whole lot of credit goes to the editors of the film. They had a clear-cut idea regarding what to preserve for the integrity of each piece without breaking the continuum the larger story. Technically we all belong to different spaces and bringing it to a point of convergence was a mind-boggling affair,” adds Sudhish. ‘X’ was screened as part of the World Cinema section at IFFK.