XO (2023): The intricate crossroads of life.

Dipankar Sarkar provides a comprehensive review on Samrat Dasgupta's short film "XO (2023)".

Jun 7, 2024 - 19:52
Jun 8, 2024 - 01:37
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XO (2023): The intricate crossroads of life.

Samrat Dasgupta's short film XO is the tale of a young woman and her journey to establish a connection. Throughout its duration, the film maintains a calm and unhurried tone. It allows the story to develop organically and draws us into the characters' world effortlessly. It is also a lucid meditation on desire, melancholy, and belonging, allowing the drama to unfold in the gaps between words and the silences between scenes. Emotions flicker but rarely ignite. As the film comes to an end, we realize that seeking love is human. Finding it is rare.   

The story of the film revolves around Rumi (Kamakshi Bhatt), a young woman who lives with her mother in suburban Kolkata. She travels on a ferry to the city and reads in the library. One day she comes across an open game of knots and crosses on one of the ignored racks of the library. She makes the first move. The next day, to her surprise, she discovers someone has responded. As a result, the game begins between two individuals who have never met one another face-to-face. It continues every time the game ends with a draw. But one day, Rumi takes a step that affects this mysterious connection.   

The film revolves around the routine life of the protagonist. Though content in her cocoon, she is dependent on others for emotional comfort. But at no moment did the filmmaker let us feel pity for her for being alone. She is alone, but not lonely. The confinement of the library becomes a space for her to share solitude and romantic alliances. The walls and doors have roles to play. They hold people’s secrets. They have seen and heard things. They have eyes and ears, but none of the biases of people. This achingly romantic and disarmingly thoughtful film does not strand us on the outside looking in. It invites us to hang out with its characters in the library and travel alongside her on a ferry. The restrained nature helps assign a sense of mystery as to whether the protagonist will discover her fellow player. The screenplay keeps sentimentality firmly at bay and adheres to the unhurried rhythms of observational storytelling. Because of this, the film occasionally stalls, feeling slow at some points.    

The cinematography by Ranjan Palit frames the protagonist in tight frames to allow her to make the most of every moment. There's a tranquillity to the compositions that’s rich in natural grace. The editing by Priya Panda has a gentle pacing that gradually helps to build up the film’s tempo. The sound design by Rishab Bose is layered and resonant. The music by Deepp C evokes the film’s emotional content with a suitable fervour. Kamakshi Bhatt sensitively portrays herself in the shoes of Rumi.    

XO is an ambitious short that makes a point and uses all the creative tools in its arsenal to achieve a work of narrative complexity. It was selected for the New York Indian Film Festival 2024. 

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