What’s a world without fantasy, love, a little drama, some tragedy and then some more? It would be lifeless, colourless, and pointless. But in 3 Storeys, a film set in a chawl—a Mumbai sub-society that is disappearing fast with the spurt of high rises—many such emotions are captured in three acts. A lot unfolds in the different tenements of Mayanagar, a three-storeyed chawl as the title suggests.
Every story has a past, every story has a secret. Arjun Mukerjee, with his debut film, tries to unravel some of these stories that one misses to notice in the rat race. Each of these stories have a surprise angle—a smart mechanism by the director to keep the film pacey and interesting. However, the strength of the film— portraying the lives of people in one chawl who live together and often tend to think they know all about the next family in the vicinity—also becomes its limitation at times as it restricts the storyteller from moving out of the setup and exploring.
Before we are introduced to Florie (Renuka Shahane), a Goan Catholic around whom the first story revolves, we see glimpses of a woman (Richa Chadha) dressed up like a new bride—wet hair, sindoor and mangalsutra, bright-yellow sari draped appropriately to attract attention. Her moves, leave the men, young and old alike, of the vicinity swooning. Her character, not adding even a bit to any of the three main stories, runs parallelly throughout. But probably she is there to play a larger role in the bigger story.
Florie is old and alone after her husband’s death, and has spent her entire life in Mayanagar. Now, she wants to settle down with her sister in Goa. She has to sell her residence. And for that, she has quoted a sum that is almost four times of what it is expected to be. Finally, after six years of struggle by the broker, she has got a prospective buyer (Pulkit Samrat) ready to shell out the amount Florie wants.
The second story, unfolding on another level of the building, is about Varsha (Masumeh Makhija)— a worker in a garment factory, abused on a regular basis by an alcoholic husband. It is only a matter of time, that her almost-happy past would start haunting her unfulfilled present. An incomplete love story is what she has left behind with Shanker Verma (Sharman Joshi). Turn of fate brings him back into her life in a way she wouldn’t have imagined.
The third is about two teenagers Suhail (Ankit Rathi) and Malini (Aisha Ahmed), attracted to each other. They have grown up in the chawl, developing feelings for each other all along. But they are from different religions. Does that bother people who anyway share so many things while they live together like a community? In the garb of an inter-faith relationship, this story tries to unearth much more than meets the eye.
The actors, for the most part, do a good job—especially Shahane and Chadha. Shahane’s prosthetic is way too distracting, but she makes up for it with the variation in her acting and with a role which is very different from the earlier characters we’ve seen her in. Chadha maintains her effervescence and seductiveness of Bholi Punjaban (one of her most memorable roles in public conscience from the Fukrey series) and yet churns out a character that is completely different, thanks to her fine acting. The four songs, composed by Clinton Cerejo and Amjad Nadeem, are smartly placed in the story, giving the film a fillip where it needs.
The three chapters merge beautifully as the film comes to a close. Like the surprise elements in all the three stories, the end, too, comes with one. But then you wonder if it would have been better if a lot would have been left unexplained.
Film: 3 Storeys
Director: Arjun Mukerjee
Starring: Richa Chadha, Renuka Shahane, Pulkit Samrat, Sharman Joshi