That one never really knows one’s neighbors – no matter how long one has been living next door to them – is my big takeaway from “3 Storeys”. The film unfolds in and around a busy Mumbai chawl whose residents live cheek-to-jowl in matchbox-sized flats, and we get three separate stories involving the lives and secrets of some of them.
In the first, a cranky old widow (Renuka Shahane) finds a prospective buyer (Pulkit Samrat) who agrees to shell out an unreasonable sum of money for her tiny apartment. Over coffee, however, the layers peel, leading to a shocking conclusion.
The second story is focused on Masumeh Makhija’s character, the miserable wife of an abusive alcoholic, who runs into an old lover, and finds herself recapping how her world came undone.
In the third story, a pair of young lovers, a Hindu girl (Aisha Ahmed) and a Muslim boy (Ankit Rathi), elope to escape their angry parents who’re dead against their relationship.
One of the overarching themes of the film, and true to each of the individual storylines, is the unshakeable baggage of the past. In each case, the past is either a trigger or a burden that weighs down the characters. Director Arjun Mukherjee, working from a script by Althea Kaushal, delivers a sting in every tale, but barring the one in the first story, the twists are fairly predictable.
The acting, meanwhile, is hit and miss. Renuka Shahane is in good form, Masumeh Makhija hits the right notes, and in a small cameo Richa Chadda is expectedly alluring as the mysterious young widow who’s got everyone talking. But the rest of the ensemble underwhelms. The filmmaking too is strictly serviceable; there’s no distinct voice or directorial signature to be spotted anywhere. The makers fail to create a wholly believable world or provide a convincing slice of life in a Mumbai chawl.
At less than two hours though, the film is never a slog. There was potential here to create a compelling drama about the dark secrets that ordinary folk bury out of sight. But at best it’s a half-baked experiment with a few shining moments. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for “3 Storeys”.