Direction: Arjun Mukerjee
Produced by: Priya Sreedharan, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani (Open Air Films, B4U Films, Excel Media and Entertainment)
Cast: Renuka Shahane, Pulkit Samrat, Richa Chadda, Sharman Joshi, Masumeh Makhija, Aisha Ahmed, Ankit Rathi
Story/Screenplay: Althea Kaushal; Cinematography: Will Humpris; Editing: Arindam Ghatak
Sound: Tarun Bhandari; Music: Clinton Cerejo
Hindi / Thriller / 100 mins / India / 2018
In the end it all boils down to love: be it parental – bordering on obsession; incestuous – unknowingly or just plain - simply love. That is what debutant Arjun Mukherjee’s ‘3 Storeys’ a.k.a 3 Stories is all about. All communities big or small - have skeletons, shock tales and back stories which make life spicy and just a little above boring. So too does Mukherjee’s debut effort. And in a city like Mumbai where everyone likes to mind their own business usually – neighbours can become friends, lovers, partners and caretakers but rarely confidantes. So what is left unsaid becomes more important than what is said. Where curiosity (unlike in say, a city like Delhi) gives way to matter-of-fact life situations. Everyone is aware of what’s going on but no one interferes in your life or mine. There is no judgment, only fact. No recrimination, only acceptance.
To that extent, the slow-paced 3 Storeys is an interesting amalgamation of 6-7 lives which intersect or move parallely but are imbued with life. There is Aunt Flory Mendonca (a very subdued and different Renuka Shahane) who still feels the pain of losing a young son to an unnatural death and who finds a unique way to cope with life’s travails. Post her husband’s death, she wants to sell her 2 BHK accommodation to move in with her sister in Goa and awaits the right buyer. There is Varsha (Masumeh Makhija) who only wanted to love and be loved by Shankar (Sharman Joshi) but to whom life has doled out an alcoholic, abusive husband instead, courtesy an arranged marriage. Then there is the young couple Malini (Aisha Ahmed) and Sohail (Ankit Rathi) who have eyes only for each other but can rarely voice their affection. Their love is a matter known to the entire ‘chawl’ but no one is unduly judgmental. It is these individual stories in the 3-storeyed ‘chawl’ where all of them reside which makes for the collective whole.
To convey all this and more, scriptwriter Althea Kaushal (co-writer for Farah Khan’s ‘Happy New Year’) resorts to silences, pauses, passage of time, flashbacks and subtle expressions of love. Understated to the core, her writing is complemented by Mukherjee’s laidback storytelling, the only spunk and spark being provided by a young, merry widow called Leela (Richa Chadda) her oomph exemplified in near backless blouses, big bindis, a sexy walk and a very naughty, saucy twinkle in the eye. As narrator, she is vested with not more than 2-4 dialogues in the whole film but lights up the screen with sheer presence, being treated differently from the other, rather commonplace characters.
3 Storeys is a one-time watch for those seeking not over-the-top performances but quiet introspection even as the tales unfold. Its twists and turns, and each story has them – are revealed at a leisurely pace. It definitely is a good debut for both Farhan Akhtar who debuts as producer here with Excel Media and, Arjun Mukherjee who has the potential to build a multi-layered look and feel in his future projects.