By Subhash K. Jha
Series: “Typewriter” (Netflix India); Cast: Purab Kohli, Palomi Ghosh, Samir Kochhar, Aarna Sharma; Writer-director: Sujoy Ghosh; Rating: *** (3 stars)
A typewriter is an obsolete instrument. Much like the typical mini series on television which has now been taken over by the smart sexy web series with production values that could put an average Subhash Ghai film to shame.
And yet the sheer vintage value of the ‘typewriter’ is preserved in writer-director Sujoy Ghosh’s engaging genre-conforming yet unorthodox supernatural web series. What is it about? You may well ask. It’s about a discarded typewriter which does sinister things on its own, like pounding out messages like ‘Bhoot is not Jhooth’.
‘Jhooth’ or not, Ghosh’s re-‘Bhoot’ series stretching slinkily into five episodes has a lot of fun with spirits. The writing is sprightly yet dark, grim yet giggly, smart and briskly paced. This is not to suggest that Ghosh is here trying to do a “Stree”. You know, make ghost funny. To its credit though “Typewriter” succeeds in being humorous while scaring the hell out of us.
A family moves into an abandoned yet strikingly picturesque bungalow in Goa. We soon realise that the mom Jenny (Palomi Ghosh) has a deep and devastating connect with the home. Here is where the series gathers its strength and hits a solid punch in our solar plexus.
Jenny’s husband, played by Samir, is involved with a tartish temptress who has one of the series’ funniest scenes with him in a car. There is also a lengthy flashback about a matriarch’s witchcraft powers shot in an enticing orange glow that suggests a state of exploitative saturation. This flashback sneaks in a little homage to Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Mera baap chor hai’ tattoo from “Deewaar”, and this is as close to Big B as a web series can get at the moment.
All this tends to scatter the plot, make it zig and zag through situations that would otherwise have been avoided in a tightly-edited feature film. Also, much as I loved the little girl Sam (played by Aarna Sharma) and her sleuthing activities with her young friends, it just didn’t seem to hit the right notes, veering from the over-cute to the outright listless.
What works is the ever-dependable Purab Kohli as a caring single parent and an inquisitive cop trying to piece together a scenario of baffling sinisterness.
Some of scenes inside the haunted bungalow are exquisitely shot, capturing as they do the rhythms of everyday activities pressurised by a spell of inexplicable happenings. “Typewriter” should have concentrated more on the ghostly dynamics of the ‘Haunted Haveli’ rather than run around collecting proof of its own adventurous spirit regarding the ghostly genre.
That having said, there is an ingrained warmth in the storytelling. And though the child actors do not have a well-appointed space in the voluminous plot, they succeed in imbuing a great deal of honesty to the telling of a spooky story that has the potential to be a pedestrian shiver giver, but manages to become something more.