Cast: Renuka Shahane, Richa Chadha, Pulkit Samrat, Sharman Joshi
Director: Arjun Mukherjee
3 Storeys is set in a Mumbai chawl, and the time is here and now. We see the inhabitants, who live on different floors (malas, or storeys) and they are the stories:
The film kicks off with a female sutradhar revealing that she is interested primarily in people and faces in a crowd. She decides to settle first up on a natty arriviste Vishal Naik (Pulkit Samrat). We see the young man boarding a taxi in the company of a property dealer. He is obviously looking for a house for himself.
The principal figure in this opening segment eventually turns out to be Flory Mendonca (Renuka Shahane, on the big screen after a long hiatus). She is a widow who lives alone in one of the rundown pads in Maya Nagar. Part of her house is up for sale. Aunt Flory quotes an astronomical price of 80 lakh rupees but Vishal signs on the dotted line without batting an eyelid. As the old lady and the new buyer drink coffee and discuss each other’s lives, the deal takes the shape of a sinister plot.
Two other narrative strands constitute the 100-minute 3 Storeys – the title refers to the levels of the building and is also an all too obvious pun on the number of tales. One is about Varsha (Masumeh Makhija), a woman with an alcoholic, abusive brute for a husband. The other revolves around a college-going Hindu girl Malini (Aisha Ahmed) in love with a Muslim boy Suhail (Ankit Rathi).
Even if not madly original, ensemble pieces can turn out interesting if consistently told. 3 Storeys comes off nice in bits but uneven overall: we are reminded of Roald Dahl and ‘O Henry in some of the inflections, and you can read the twists a mile off, especially in the segment which features the canny old lady and the brash young man with a shared past, and in the other, where two lovers are sundered because of a misunderstanding.
The casting is great and the performances wonderful. Especially laudable is Renuka Shahane, who effortlessly slips into the skin of a temperamental Goan Catholic matron. Masumeh Makhija, whose eyes do as much of the talking as her lips, is equally good. The two newcomers in the cast, Ankit Rathi and Aisha Ahmed, give a good account of themselves.
The two principal male actors – Pulkit Samrat and Sharman Joshi – pale a tad in comparison. The fault isn’t entirely theirs. They are ‘outsiders’ to the world that 3 Storeysis located in. Their on-screen personas are at odds with the feisty women that they encounter and, therefore, do not yield the percentage that the efforts of the female actors, including Richa Chadha.
For all its flaws, 3 Storeys is still worth watching because it seeks to engage with the audience in a manner that is anything but run of the mill.