Bringing together diverse talent: X – Past is Present
11 filmmakers who couldn’t be more different from each other have come together to collaborate on a single story idea that makes one unique film called X – Past is Present. Add to it a diverse cast and you have captured our interest.
In the second part of our interview, we speak with Directors Pratim Gupta, Anu Menon, Suparn Verma and actor Parno Mitra to understand how they approached this film and their take on the parts given to them.
Pratim Gupta, Director
According to you what are the advantages of a film like this that brings together various talents? And any disadvantages?
It’s a great creative cauldron when you are brainstorming over the same film but with your own little spins. A huge perk is that there are so many other heads that all the logistical headaches are distributed evenly. The disadvantage can be that not all directors have the big picture in mind and that can affect the film as a whole. And that’s what makes X unique because it’s not just a collection of short films.
From where did you draw inspiration for the character that Parno plays in the film? How did you go about sketching it?
When I was in college in St Xavier’s, Kolkata, there were many girls who would come from the North East and study there. They would stay as paying guests nearby and subsequently start working real soon to pay for the tuition fees and rent. They used to take a lot of pride in their work… that proverbial “apne pairon par khade hona”. Shiuli is someone like them who’s come from a neighboring state and lives as a tenant with Mrs Baker (Usha Uthup). She works hard and wants to make it in Kolkata on her own terms. There’s no time for love but then K arrives!
Anu Menon, Director
How different was X – Past is Present from your previous filmmaking encounters and why?
For me it was a fantastic experiment – to jump in without knowing where it would all lead to was both scary and exciting. I am generally a control freak – I am very clear about what I want before I shoot, I write and re-write my script a hundred times etc. So this was a challenge for me.
I didn’t know any of the other filmmakers personally before this. So to shoot my portion and hand it over – and allow it to help the story in the best possible way – in a way that someone else deems fit was a very big step for me. And that’s what is amazing about this film – such disparate stories and styles and yet it comes together. Much like our lives honestly…
If you had to give viewers one reason to watch this film, what would it be?
An audacious experiment – that actually works!
Suparn Verma, Director
How did you go about choosing the actress for your part of the film?
One of my dear friends Nikhil Mahajan, who made Pune 52, and I were together at the New York Film Festival where Aatma was being screened. I told him about this project that I was going to work on next and how I was looking for a very interesting girl with a ‘haunting’ quality to her. He told me about Neha Mahajan, whom I then met and we completely connected. She understood the role and that’s how she got it.
What was the most interesting part of working on this film?
The most interesting part was 11 filmmakers working together and trying to find a single voice. After a lot of screaming, shouting and biting each others heads off we found a voice, which is the film. We all had the same budget and there were lots of constraints which made it more challenging. Another challenge was that I wanted to shoot my entire section in point of view.
Parno Mitra, Actor
How did you bag your part in Pratim Gupta’s story?
Pratim and I have been friends for a long time. One day he suddenly called me, talking to me like a director, and asked if I’d be interested in his film. He explained the concept and his segment and I immediately said yes. Obviously it was something I hadn’t done before and I guess that got me excited.
Tell us about your role in the film. What sets it apart from your previous roles?
I play Shiuli . She is a working woman in Kolkata, away from her home and she falls in love with someone she has never met. She has only connected with him through poetry. I’ve played a lot of interesting roles right from the girl who dreams of becoming a singer to a naive village girl to a tomboy and a feminist but Shiuli is one of a kind. You may have not met anybody like her, at least I haven’t, so being able to become someone you have no reference point to is what sets it apart from all the other characters I’ve played so far.