It was liberating to watch a Hindi film that doesn’t gloss over families who live on a tight budget. The grime, their slimy secrets and their crimes are shown in all their shabby glory in 3 Storeys, directed by Arjun Mukerjee.
Written by Dubai-based writer Althea Kaushal, this is a tale of residents living in a derelict multi-storeyed apartment block in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, whose lives inter-cut towards the climax.
Every resident, who seems to lead a collectively placid — almost boring — existence, have backstories that will make your eyebrows shoot up. You would think their biggest worry is being cash-strapped or whether they would find a suitable paying job, but their backstories are murky and surprisingly complex.
The film begins with a bang as we get introduced to the eccentric Anglo-Indian widow, Flory Mendonca, played ably by Renuka Shahane. She will remind you of that eccentric aunt in your family who’s endearing as well as embarrassing. She’s cuckoo enough to demand an exorbitant amount for her tiny flat, but finds a prospective buyer in a particularly buffed-up Pulkit Samrat. He’s desperate for a home near the railway station in Mumbai and she’s happy to relinquish her hold over her flat.
He’s a misfit among the lower middle-class folks with his crisp blue shirt and polished leather shoes, but we still play along. There’s intrigue thrown in for good measure and the way their bond plays out is interesting to watch. The twist is particularly scintillating.
But the same cannot be said about the other two stories, which are predictable. On the surface, none of the stories are related and their commonality is that they are all neighbours who live in the same building block. However, they are bound not just by their residential address — their lives inter-mingle in unexpected ways.
It isn’t always believable, but the succinct film doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The second one is a tale of a woman living in an unhappy, violent marriage. Her story of unrequited love, wonderfully acted by Sharman Joshi and Masumeh Makhija, is frustrating because of their star-crossed destinies. This pair comes across as archaic as they clutch on to lofty ideals surrounding parental approval and jobs. For once, I missed a dash of drama in a Bollywood film.
But what works for this film with a running time of 115 minutes is that it moves along at a good, jolly pace. The third story of two young lovers who elope isn’t as riveting, but you still don’t give up on the film. The twist at the end of their journey is painfully predictable. Richa Chadha adds a dash of colour to the proceedings with her brazen way of life. She’s an unconventional widow who has a fertile imagination.
Credit has to go to director Mukerjee for keeping things simple. There are no unnecessary songs fracturing the narrative. It’s mostly background score or that isolated celebratory song that’s thrown in.
3 Storeys, which is well-cast with suitable talents, is a quirky cinematic experiment. Like bedtime stories, some stick while others are entirely forgettable. This film, which is a collection of such bedtime stories, is stuck somewhere in the middle.
Film: 3 Storeys
Director: Arjun Mukerjee
Cast: Renuka Shahane, Pulkit Samrat, Richa Chadha, Sharman Joshi