Netflix’s latest Indian original series, Typewriter, opens with the eponymous writing device. A famous author in a Goan villa types out the title of his latest horror novel, but is killed by a supernatural being moments later. Madhav Mathews (Kanwaljit Singh) doesn’t live to tell the tale of the Ghost of Sultanpore, but viewers get to unpack the backstory over the course of the five-episode series.
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh (Kahaani, Badla) and co-written by him and Suresh Nair, Typewriter is set in the quaint town of Bardez in Goa, the centrepiece of which is the haunted Bardez Villa. More than two decades after Madhav’ death, his granddaughter Jenny (Palomi Ghosh) moves from Mumbai along with her husband and two children. The family moves into Bardez Villa and the quiet Goan town starts ratcheting up a high body count.
Three seemingly natural deaths take place in quick succession, all of whom have one thing in common: Jenny. As the police led by inspector Ravi Anand (Purab Kohli) begin their investigation, a precocious group of four children – Sam (Arna Sharma), Nick (Aaryansh Malviya), Gablu (Milkail Gandhi) and Bunty (Palash Kamble) – start a parallel probe into the mysterious past of the villa and its erstwhile resident novelist. A shape-shifting ghost turns out to be on the loose, spilling blood in Bardez after assuming the form of Jenny. Competing for villainy with the supernatural entity is Amit Roy (Jisshu Sengupta), a shadowy character who wants to get his hands on Madhav’s typewriter.
Co-starring Samir Kochhar, Harish Khanna, Sara Gesawat, and Ramakant Dayama, Typewriter was released on Netflix on Friday.
Typewriter is premised on the most conventional trope in the horror genre – an old haunted house inhabited by new residents – but the scares are few and far between. The series starts strong, balancing table setting with intrigue building in the first two episodes. In its better moments, Typewriter comes off as an Indian riff on Stranger Things and The Haunting of Hill House. There’s also an Enid Blyton touch, courtesy the four kids and their companion dog. The famous five run a ghost club, meeting after school in a shady hut and discussing ghostbusting techniques and theories.
In the subsequent episodes, more time is spent on uncovering the villa’s past and the ghost’s backstory, a track that is far less compelling than the horrors being unleashed by the other-worldly spirit in the present day. Add a mysterious man named Fakeer and an impending lunar eclipse to the mix and you have a storyline that’s too crowded and teases more threads that it can do justice to. As the narrative moves sideways and backwards, the storytelling takes a hit and the pace begins to drag. Some humorous sequences in the middle seem tonally inconsistent, especially a particularly trite sidetrack involving a hard-of-hearing doctor.
Though it lacks chills, Typewriter keeps the plot twists coming, and Sujoy Ghosh’s experience with the thriller genre comes in handy in this regard. Palomi Ghosh is perfectly mysterious in her dual role as Jenny, playing both the haunter and the haunted. The usually easy-on-the-eye Purab Kohli pulls off the look of a dowdy police officer who could desperately use a hair cut and a shave. The children provide the series some fun moments and the leader of the brat pack, played by Aarna Sharma, puts in a charming performance.
The short running length and the element of intrigue makes Typewriter an easy binge, but the series would have worked much better if it had more haunting and less hunting into the past.