Sujoy Ghosh, cast of Typewriter on why Netlifx's latest offering is not a run-of-the-mill horror series
Sujoy Ghosh and the cast members of his latest miniseries Typewriter — Jisshu Sengupta, Palomi Ghosh, and Purab Kolhi — talk exploring complex character.
Warning: spoilers ahead
Sujoy Ghosh's forthcoming Netflix miniseries Typewriter is an acute departure from his previous films. While still bordering on the mystery/suspense genre, Typewriter is an out-and-out horror series, replete with haunted mansions, lurking ghosts and an ornate typewriter. However, despite the sinister tone of the story, Sujoy's protagonists are not seasoned ghostbusters but a group of children who bunk school to conduct meetings for their newly-formed ghost club.
"The idea of Typewriter germinated from a very selfish interest— to relive my childhood. I grew up reading Hemendra Kumar Roy, Bimal-Kumar, Agatha Christie, Robert Loius Stevenson; about children solving deadly crimes, adult issues, and saving the world. Moreover, in recent times, authors such as JK Rowling and Stephen King have had children as their protagonists," Sujoy says in a chat with Firstpost.
However, Sujoy did not want to limit Typewriter to a ghostbuster narrative with young-adult protagonists. "There are multiple parallel stories unfolding at the same time. I added layers to my story so that it that would satisfy the appetite of both young and adult audiences," affirms Sujoy. It took the Badla director over a year and a half to stitch together the complex narrative.
Jisshu Sengupta's Amit Roy, with his perfectly side-parted hair and half-sleeve striped shirts, may remind one of the deceptively mundane-looking, mild-mannered assassin Bob Biswas from Ghosh's critically-acclaimed Kahaani. In Kahaani, Bob carries out bone-chilling murders with a mirthless smile on his face, greeting every victim with a 'nomoshkar' before planting bullets into their skull. But Sujoy reveals that there was a deliberate attempt on his and the filmmakers' part to stray away from the iconic villain.
"To me, Amit Roy is Rama incarnate. He does not care if his father's ways were crooked or that he was a wanted criminal. Amit is the most devoted son one can ask for, which is why he even gave up his life in the end in order to serve his father," Sujoy explains. "From the get-go, we realise that Amit is deeply attached to Fakeer and is single-mindedly aiming to resurrect Fakeer's spirit. Unlike the sedate and clinical Bob, Amit is passionate to the point of insanity," Jisshu chimes in.
Amit may have appeared for a shorter duration compared to the others, but Sujoy made sure he looms large like the mighty Colossus. "I wanted Amit's character, even in his mundane-ness, to look menacing. Hence, most of Jisshu's shots are low-angle shots, showing off his bulky physique," Sujoy says, before adding that the camerawork in Typewriter is behind much of the blood-curling sequences in the show.
"The idea was to create the idea of fear, to plant the seed. I cannot create fear for my viewers, the viewers have to grasp onto certain hints and then create fear in their minds. The tropes of a dark room, jump-scares are all pointers I create. The rest is up to the viewers to decode, because we always are scared of the unknown. What we do know, on the other hand, is not scary," he declares.
It is this fear of the unknown that made Sujoy settle for Goa. Unlike Kahaani or Kahaani 2 (which are set in Bengal), Goa is unknown territory to him. "Like the characters in the show, I too was scampering through Goa as if blindfolded. It was as unsettling for me to chart unfamiliar surroundings as it was for the characters to grapple with unpleasant discoveries. Hence, it was important to set the characters in a place that rattled them out of their comfort zones," he explains.
If Amit Roy's enormity is magnified with low-angle shots, Palomi Ghosh's Jenny is misleadingly low-key. After Jenny comes back to her Goa ancestral house Bardez Villa, she learns that there is a doppelganger ghost that has been furthering Fakeer's quest to take over the world by squeezing victims' souls out of their hearts. So if the mother-of-two Jenny is unassuming and affable, the ghost Jenny is steely. Speaking about how she straddles Jenny's dual personae, she says "When you play characters which are as extremely and dualistic, you need to enact the in-betweens. You want viewers to be on their toes, but also not give away vital information."
Jump-scares are abundant in Typewriter. Palomi admits that these scenes are harder to create when the agent you're scared of is your own alter-ego. "There is always a part of us that we often shun and shut out. So, when you are facing that ghost/alter-ego for the first time, it is almost like you are facing your repressed self. The separation between the entities break, and you no longer distinguish one from the other. While filming the scenes with both the Jennys, I often used to tap into this to play the parts equally convincingly, but without going over-the-board," says Palomi.
Purab Kohli echoes the sentiment. "I think it's harder to play subtle characters. When you have a charismatic character like KD behind the drums (in Rock On) or Munna (from Awaarapan), killing and stabbing people around, it's right there. On the other hand, when you have characters which have nothing much to do, you need to find the fine in-betweens of the characters, and how they interact with the rest of the world," Purab says.
"Ravi Anand (Purab's character, a police officer at Bardez and father of ghostbusters' ring-leader Sameera/Sam) is infatuated with Jenny the first time he meets her; she is almost a legend to Ravi, having grown up on a generous dose of tales surrounding the mysterious death of her grandfather. This enamor needed to be conveyed without any verbal exchange, which I found challenging and hence interesting as an actor," Purab adds.
Typewriter may be a horror-show, but the five-episode-long series devotes ample time to nurture characters and their interpersonal relationships. Sam has lost her mother at a young age, and yearns to meet her — a yearning so dire that she forms a ghost-club with her friends and reads occult scriptures to find clues about the existence of otherworldly creatures. On one hand, while Ravi is proud of his daughter's courage and smarts, he is also worried about her well-being. "Ravi's relationship with Sameera and his conflict is explored in the scene where he catches his daughter watching Dr. Spirit's video. During the scene, we experimented with a lot of dialogues and lines, so it would come across as convincing," he concludes.
Typewriter is, after all, a supernatural series that thrives in its complexity, but one that can be enjoyed both by Nancy Drew readers and their parents.
(All images from YouTube)
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