Cast: Purab Kohli, Palomi Ghosh, Samir Kochhar, Aarna Sharma
Writer-Director: Sujoy Ghosh
A typewriter is an obsolete instrument. Just like the quintessential television miniseries that has now been taken over by the smart sexy web series with production values that could put an average Subhash Ghai movie to shame.
And yet the pure vintage value of the “typewriter” has been preserved in writer-director Sujoy Ghosh’s captivating genre-conform yet unorthodox supernatural web series. What is it about? You can ask well. It’s about a disused typewriter that does sinister things on its own, like stamping out messages like ‘Bhoot is not Jhooth’.
‘Jhooth’ or not, Ghosh’s re-‘Bhoot’ series, which secretly spans into five episodes, has a lot of fun with ghosts. The writing is lively but dark, stark yet giggly, smart and briskly paced. This is not to say that Ghosh is trying to do a “Stree” here. You know, making ghost funny. To his credit though Typewriter manages to be humorous while terrifying us.
A family moves into an abandoned but strikingly picturesque bungalow in Goa. We soon realize that the mother Jenny (Palomi Ghosh) has a deep and devastating bond with the house. This is where the series gathers its strength and packs a punch into our solar plexus.
Jenny’s husband, played by Samir, is involved with a defiant temptress who has one of the funniest scenes in the series with him in a car. There’s also a lengthy flashback on a matriarch’s magic, shot in a seductive orange glow that suggests a state of exploitative satiety. This flashback is 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 right now.
All this tends to scatter the plot, zig-zagging it through situations that would otherwise have been avoided in a tightly edited feature film. And as much as I loved little girl Sam (played by Aarna Sharma) and her sleuthing with her young friends, it just didn’t seem to hit the right note, going from overly cute to downright listless.
What works is the ever-trustworthy Purab Kohli as a caring single parent and a curious cop trying to piece together a scenario of mind-boggling sinisterness.
Some scenes in the haunted bungalow are beautifully shot, capturing the rhythms of everyday activities pressured by a spell of unexplained events. Typewriter should have focused more on the haunted dynamics of the ‘Haunted Haveli’ rather than running around collecting evidence of his own adventurous spirit regarding the haunted genre.
That said, there’s a deep-seated warmth to the story. And while the child actors don’t have a well-appointed space in the voluminous plot, they manage to bring a lot of honesty to the telling of a haunting story that has the potential to give a pedestrian shivers, but manages to become something more.
(Review for IANS by Subhash K Jha)
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