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SAIFF 2014: Too many directors muddle potent mix in ‘X’

SAIFF 2014: Too many directors muddle potent mix in ‘X’

November 20 2014

Six-day South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) extravaganza gets under way with a production showcasing 11 Indian directors charting the journey of a single man…

By Naresh Kumar

THERE was a real sense of excitement and anticipation as the curtain rose for the opening film of the South Asian International Film Festival, “X”, in New York on Tuesday evening (November 18).

The festival which closes on Sunday (November 23) aims to showcase the best of independent South Asian and more original Bollywood cinema in North America.

Among the highlights is the centrepiece gala film “Happy Ending”, which stars Bollywood heartthrob Saif Ali Khan and Ileana D’Cruz and features Kalki Koechlin and Ranvir Shorey and Bollywood legend, Govinda. There are also cameos from Kareena Kapoor and Priety Zinta among others. The film is produced under Khan’s own banner, Illuminati Films and was partially shot on location in Michigan.

Directed by US based award-winners Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru “Happy Ending” shows at the festival on Thursday (November 20) and is on general release worldwide the next day. It chronicles the fate of a fading Bollywood star (Govinda) who calls upon an equally failing screenwriter (Khan) to turn his Bollywood script into a Hollywood movie. Mayhem ensues as girlfriends and ex-girlfriends also enter the frame.

Other notable festival screenings include the 2014 Cannes Film Festival premeried hard-hitting Indian crime caper, “Titli” and the evocatively shot Pakistani tribal honour crime thriller, “Dukhtar”. This is Pakistan’s official entry to the Oscars this year and the scenery alone, some would say, is worth the ticket price.

The festival closes with another much anticipated Pakistani film, “Na Maloom Arfaad” which delves into the lives of three young men ducking and diving and surviving in the chaos of Karachi. It is directed by up and coming director Nabeel Qureshi, whose short films have already been broadcast on national television in Pakistan.

And so to “X” – which features 11 different directors telling the story of a single man.

It’s bold, experimental and well, a little messy. Maybe, very messy. There are 10 male directors and a single female one – and each has a different style of dialogue and there’s a parade of different filmmaking genres from mainstream to arthouse.

It focuses on ‘K’ and his relationships with ten ex-girlfriends.

Scene from opening film of South Asian International Film Festival 2014 'X'

The movie begins with ‘K’ on a surreal unforgettable night, when he meets a strange mysterious female at a film festival – and she becomes a motif for the other women ‘K’ encounters.

It’s a real mixed bag – if only the directors had been able to link the scenes more coherently, with a more disciplined story, some better quality acting, more ruthless editing and better sound quality, then it could have been an amazing film.

With it being mainly in Hindi, the subtitles vanished for the last quarter and it must have lessened the experience for some.

It has a ‘guerrilla’ type tone to it, depicting how women shape one man’s life and examines his journey from adolescence to adulthood encompassing perversion, substance abuse and numerous relationships and passing encounters.

The film takes much more of a sinister turn towards the end, as we witness what is likely to become the production’s most notorious scene – that of a young K played by Anshuman Jha of the hit Indian movie “Love Sex aur Dhoka” fame.

It delivers K back to a bedroom scene in a village not far from Kolkata (Calcutta). The young K is lured into a room with an attractive village girl – language being no barrier. What transpires is utterly shocking and probably unforgettable.

All in all, the story is too disjointed and too disparate and the styles too grating for a viewer to invest too much in this – which in many ways is a shame.

Also in this light, it was nice to see a female director’s (Rajshree Ohja) touch among the highly congested male, testosterone fuelled scripts.

The canvas in hers is smaller and more intimate – with K revealing over dinner with a new partner that some of his relationship issues stem from a previous girlfriend having an abortion without telling him.

It helped us understand K a lot better and showed a level of vulnerability and tenderness in him that was otherwise absent. It gave us an insight into his issues around commitment and relationships in general.

Despite the negatives, it is watchable and there are some really good scenes – ‘the Biryani’ is one among them (watch the film and you will know what I mean, LOL).

See this if you’re passionate about film or when you’re tired of the same old, same old Bollywood/Hollywood stuff.

It’s certainly an interesting – if not always successful – take on a story that addresses the complexities of one man and his relationship issues and it hasn’t dampened the spirits for the remainder of the festival.

ACV rating: ** (out of five).

*The South Asian International Film Festival continues until Sunday, November 23.
*For more information on the South Asian International Fim Festival and the full listings and ticket information, please see SAIFF2014

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture