Film: 3 Storeys
Cast: Pulkit Samrat, Richa Chadha, Renuka Shahane, Masumeh Makhija, Sharman Joshi, Ankit Rathi, Himanshu Malik, Aisha Ahmed, Saunskriti Kher, Tarun Anand
Director: Arjun Mukherjee
Rating: * * *
The last time chawl-life intrigued the fantasy-fed mainstream audience was when Sai Paranjpe gave us Katha- a delicate comedy-drama that had romance and betrayal strengthening its inveigling undertow. Arjun Mukherjee’s new offering ‘3 Storeys’ is also set in a chawl but the intent here is not towards comedy but towards twisty thrills. And it’s intriguing set-up even though contrivances abound.
The three stories are segued together in a continuum where incidents and events flow into one another while the individual stories continue to retain their distinctiveness. Flory Mendonca (Renuka Shahane in ‘Mem Didi’ get-up) demands an exorbitant price for her flat and a young man Vilas Naik (Pulkit Samrat) eventually turns-up to buy it – coughing up 80 lakhs without so much as a murmur. Curious why he did that? Well, the director has a surprise in store here and the logic is all twisted in the flight of fancy he creates by means of a Sutradhar (voiced by Richa Chadha). She also turns up in the story as one of the peripheral characters- a voluptuous, sexy looking widow, lusted after by almost all the adult males there- she though, lives life on her own terms.
The second story has heart but even that appears to be a slight-of-location trick. Two lovers, Varsha (Masumeh) and Shankar (Sharman Joshi), facing parental opposition, decide to give each other a year’s time so that Shankar can earn enough to make Varsha’s parents agreeable. But years later, their lives have taken heart-wrenching individual trajectories that put them on opposite ends of the happiness index.
The third story is about young love where a Muslim Boy Suhail Ansari (Ankit Rathi) and a Hindu girl Malini Mathur (Aisha Ahmed) elope and are forcibly brought back only to realise that their romance was doomed to be short-lived by reasons of birth.
Althea Kaushal-Delmas’ screenplay adapts a short story by Henry Slesar titled ‘The Right Kind of House’ for the Renuka Shahane enacted episode while the other two are original fabrications that harken back to the cinema of the 80’s in tone and style.
Arjun Mukerjee’s helming is assured, if not crisp and he manages to give us enough moments to stay interested. Of course, the rather short 100-minute runtime is a blessing too. The performances of the entire cast are first rate-especially Masumeh, Himanshu Malik (looking anything but the body-toned model he once used to be), an alluring Richa Chadha and the two youngsters- Ankit Rathi and Aisha Ahmed.
Even the bit players give off such realistic performances that you can’t help but applaud. Even though the stories feel contrived with endings that are largely predictable, this is a good solid effort. There’s poignancy and heart-break underlining the mellowed dramatics here. The pacing, the music and the camerawork are excellent. Even the final denouement leaves you with something more to think about.