The city of Goa is all about beaches, resorts and summer getaways. However, the makers of Netflix’s latest mini-series, Typewriter, have given a completely new spin to India’s favourite holiday destination, projecting it as a much darker place: a backdrop for a horror story.
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, the series is centred on a Goan villa, where a series of strange and horrifying deaths occur. Right from the first episode, the show develops like a mystery thriller, taking you back to Enid Blyton’s books or to the recent series Stranger Things, where a bunch of nosy children set about solving (supernatural) murder mysteries.
Typewriter begins at the Bardez Villa, Goa. A woman named Jenny, played by Palomi Ghosh, has moved here from Mumbai with her family: her husband Peter and their two children. The villa belonged to Jenny’s grandfather, Madhav Mathews, played by Kanwaljeet Singh, who wrote ghost stories and is believed to be a practitioner of black magic of some kind. This is the point where the back story peters out.
The action now shifts to the main characters of the show: to Jenny and Sameera, played by Aarna Sharma, who is the leader of a “ghost club” which comprises Gablu (Mikail Gandhi), Bunty (Palash Kamble) and Nick (Aaryansh Malviya) and Buddy, Sameera’s pet dog.
Sameera has recently read a book called The Ghost of Sultanpore, which revealed to her that there is something amiss at the Bardez Villa, Jenny’s new home. Meanwhile, Ravi, who is a local inspector and Sameera’s father (played by Purab Kohli), is busy solving a series of murders which he is convinced are unnatural deaths, and which are somehow connected with Jenny.
Jenny’s homecoming and the history of her grandfather’s typewriter—the thematic peg of the show—raises several questions left unanswered in this season, and perhaps the next season would deal with those.
The story kicks off well at the beginning but loses its charm as episodes pass by, because too many story strands come together and are left unresolved. The plot is no doubt promising, full of thrilling turns. But assessing Typewriter as a contribution to the horror genre, it simply lacks the punch. There aren’t enough moments that scare you. And such moments are our only takeaway from films and series in the horror genre, as was true of classics like The Conjuring and Haunting of the Hill House and more.
Instead of scaring us witless, Typewriter keeps us guessing. It becomes a mystery thriller, emphasising the puzzle of Jenny’s past and the inexplicable murders at the villa. The five episodes do not lead to a clear climax, suggesting that a second season might be in the offing.
The series is the Netflix debut of director and writer Sujoy Ghosh, known for his 2012 film Kahaani. For this project, Ghosh worked with the writer and producer Suresh Nair, of Kahaani and D-Day (2013) fame. In an interview, Ghosh said that he was inspired by the stories of Rabindranath Tagore and Edgar Allan Poe, and that Typewriter aimed to create a mash-up of the two styles of storytelling.
Though it can’t really be ranked with anything written by Tagore or Poe, Typewriter succeeds on the level of the plot, whose twists and turns are enough to keep the viewers hooked. On top of that, there are some standout performances in the show, for which the credit goes to the director, who must have found it challenging to work with a cast of young actors.
The series is a must-watch for those who like psychological thrillers. But if it’s the horror-show tag that brought you here, then you’re in for a disappointing and distinctly non-scary ride.