Typewriter is a 2019 Indian Netflix Original horror drama show that was created and directed by Sujoy Ghosh, who also co-wrote the series with Suresh Nair. When this title popped up in my recommendations, I was immediately intrigued because it was a Hindi language horror drama rather than just being a film. I absolutely love Indian cinema. It’s what I grew up on and what I consistently turn to whenever I’m feeling alone or just needing a comforting, familiar presence. So, taking my cultural respect for the medium and combining it with my surprise at seeing an original spoopy serial, I was hooked without even needing to check out the premise. Last night, I finally sat down and watched through the pilot. Here are my thoughts; spoiler alert: they are good.
Typewriter begins in a mansion called Bardez Villa. One evening after an elder gentleman sits down at his typewriter to write a book, he is immediately interrupted by his granddaughter, Jenny. She can hear voices coming from her room and needs her Daddu (endearing way of saying granddad in Hindi; for paternal granddads) to tell her things are safe. He swoops up the girl into his arms and then they head into the bedroom. Later that same evening, he dies. The book he began writing was also completely finished. Fast-forward to many years later, that same little girl returns to Bardez Villa with a family of her own. As they settle into the long-abandoned house that has been the centre of the small town’s local ghost stories, a trio of kids are determined to solve the mystery of Bardez Villa.
If I could sum up the pilot episode in one word, it would be wholesome. If I had to do it in two, it would be wholesomely creepy. The balance between the warm family dynamics, the eeriness of the manor and the mystery surrounding it were fantastic. Toss that together with great music, methodical execution, and cautious use of jump scares, I’d say that Typewriter has the makings for an absolutely splendid horror series all-around.
The three kids (and their dog) who are determined to solve the mystery that has been enveloping Bardez Villa since the granddad’s death are so adorable, especially the girl, Sameera. She is fierce and fearless and also charmingly mischievous. Aside from the fearless aspect, she reminded me a lot of myself when I was her age. The same curiosity and desire to figure out things that I either didn’t understand them or that intrigued me to no avail. Her and her chums have great chemistry and when they interact with another it’s very natural, and that resonates off the screen beautifully. It helps to make one invested in their (possibly) ghost-hunting shenanigans all the more. Plus, Sameera has a heart-touching bond with her dad that reminded me slightly of Eleven and Hopper, but in this case, the duo has grief and loneliness to bind them together tightly in ways that are deeply personal. Their interactions are honest and such a marvellously healthy portrayal of father-daughter relationships that I desperately need more of in Asian cinema.
We don’t see much of Jenny and her family in the pilot, so it’s difficult to really ascertain what their relationship is like. The most we learn is that they are close to each other to various degrees, especially the boy, Nick, and his pops. The teenage girl is in her rebellious phase and the mom vehemently stands against the belief that ghosts are real. I hope we get to see more of them later in the series, as they are the occupants of the house, and I feel like there is something simmering underneath their neat and happy family vibe that is anything but.
The atmosphere in Typewriter was perfect to me. It may feel like a tease to some folx who are looking for more intense jump scares or chilling spoopiness, however, for an introductory episode, it was excellent. Even though the first five to ten minute has a scary incident occur, the bulk of the segment relied on a balanced and slow building of eeriness to set the tone. Jump scares are used few and far between and are timed in ways that don’t make them feel like superficial shock value seasoning. The ambiance noise and sounds are used in ways that makes the watcher question if they actually heard them or if they are imagining it, sort of drawing us into the episode and environment with the cast members, especially if one’s using surround sound.
Even though the progression is gradual, it works here because it’s laying down the bricks for the rest of the season to build off of, and it also creates a methodical aura to the mystery that makes the watcher naturally curious to learn what’s going on. Is there any truth to the rumours and decades old murmurings, or is it all just codswallop?
Some minor things that stood out to me include the acting, which was marvellous. As I mentioned above, the chemistry between all the characters (so far) seem to be fabulous and it further cements the believability of the narrative, which I adore, especially in spoopy (potentially) supernatural shindigs. The music is a lovely mixture of whimsical instrumentals that invite imagination and adventure, with nuances of eerie tones that are subtle enough to incite discomfort without being blaringly on the nose. Lastly, the final moments of the episode were a nice tossback to the first handful of minutes.
Overall, Typewriter has a great balance of family interaction that’s charmingly pure with a sinisterly atmospheric mystery that helps to lure the watcher into the folds of its enigma with sporadic yet carefully crafted elements of supernatural horror. I don’t know if I should expect a family-style adventure story, or one where the people have to go into the maw’s of death to get freedom from terrifying forces. If the show pulls of both, then I’ll be satisfyingly stunned. As it stands, I can somewhat see it accomplishing this feat, and I’m going to hold out hope that it doesn’t disappoint, no matter what the results.
There are five total episodes of Typewriter’s first season and it can be streamed on Netflix.