In Arjun Mukherjee’s “3 Storeys”, a portmanteau film set in a Mumbai chawl, the lives of residents intersect and clash in several unexpected ways.
In the first story, a cantankerous old woman (Renuka Shahane) tries to sell her tiny house to a buyer (Pulkit Samrat), but all is not as it seems. Her past and his intertwine, the eerie atmosphere and Shahane’s portrayal of a woman who seems calm on the outside and unhinged on the inside is pitch-perfect, making this the most effective of the three tales.
In the second story, a woman in an abusive marriage (Masumeh Makhija) encounters an old lover. And in the third, a young couple faces an unexpected hurdle.
In all three stories, director Mukherjee makes sure there is some twist at the end, some curveball that he throws at the audience that, more often than not, fails to stick. The acting is uneven, which is perhaps to be expected in a film with an ensemble cast. Most of the actors, including Makhija and newcomers Ankit Rathi and Aisha Ahmed, look like they’ve walked in from the posh bylanes of Bandra into the chawl and its squalid surroundings.
The direction matches the acting. While the idea is good, Mukherjee is patchy in his execution. A subplot involving a silent love story between a policeman and the neighbourhood siren is dealt with awkwardly, and the story of the abused wife seems to drag on for too long.
Determined to make the most of the play on his title, Mukherjee spends much time panning the camera up and down the three-storeyed chawl as he introduces his three main characters, but other than that, the film doesn’t really offer us a glimpse of chawl life in Mumbai.
For all its rough edges though, there is an attempt to stay off the beaten path and a few sincere performances to match that effort, so “3 Storeys” deserves some credit.