Ghostbusters of Goa: on director Sujoy Ghosh’s first Netflix series, 'Typewriter'

A huge part of director Sujoy Ghosh’s childhood was spent in the magical worlds conjured by author Enid Blyton. He pictured himself joining the adventures of the Five Find-Outers, the Famous Five or the Secret Seven, pet dogs in tow. “Children were the heroes of the stories, and when I was reading those books, it was like I was doing those heroic acts and solving mysteries,” laughs the director.

Now, 16 years after debuting with the musical Jhankaar Beats (and a string of suspense-thrillers), Ghosh is finally putting children front-and-centre in his upcoming Netflix original, Typewriter. With a cast that includes Purab Kohli and Palomi Ghosh, the five-episode series revolves around a group of nine-year-olds in Goa (played by Aarna Sharma, Aaryansh Malviya, Mikail Gandhi, and Palash Kamble), on a mission to capture ghosts, along with their furry companion.

A first for the duo

While the story, as is characteristic of many of Ghosh’s works, hinges on its female leads (including Jenny, the mysterious new resident in Bardez Villa), intrigue envelops popular Bengali actor Jisshu Sengupta’s character, Amit Roy. “I’m banking a lot on Jisshu,” admits the director.

Ghostbusters of Goa: on director Sujoy Ghosh’s first Netflix series, 'Typewriter'

Sengupta — who juggled his role as Amit Roy with performances in Manikarnika (2019) and the upcoming Bengali film, Bornoporichoy — says he jumped at the opportunity to work with Ghosh after a string of elusive collaborations. “He knows me since Kahaani (2012), which I was supposed to be a part of. Anukul (2017) also didn’t happen,” he says, about the director’s second short film.

An interesting fact that ties the two together is that Ghosh stepped into the role of actor with his portrayal of detective Byomkesh Bakshi in Rituparno Ghosh’s Satyanweshi (2013) — a character that Sengupta has essayed three times in his career. The actor remembers visiting Satyanweshi’s sets because of his deep connection with the film’s late director. “Sujoy was very tense, so I didn’t go near him,” he jokes.

When he is reminded of the incident, Ghosh says between embarrassed chuckles: “Forget me. He is much better! You can’t even mention Jisshu and me in the same sentence.”

Hooked by horror

What the director clearly enjoyed doing while piecing together the series was marrying an Enid Blyton and Tintinesque sense of adventure with the chilling films and shows he would often watch before going to bed. “I didn’t watch a lot of television, but then I came to England (at 13); I saw a series all night — an adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot,” he remembers. It terrified him, but he was hooked.

Ghostbusters of Goa: on director Sujoy Ghosh’s first Netflix series, 'Typewriter'

He lists Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween) and Sam Raimi (the Evil Dead series) among the filmmakers whose work he devours. “It’s like a roller coaster ride,” he says about watching horror. “You get really scared when you’re on it, saying ‘I’m never going to do that again,’ but the moment you get up, you just want to do it again.”

The process of weaving together disquieting deaths, a haunted villa, and inquisitive children was challenging, he admits. “In writing a series, you unlearn everything that you knew before. With [2015 short film] Ahalya, I was wondering how I’d tell an entire story in 12 minutes. But now I’m thinking, ‘Why are you asking me to say so much in five hours’?” laughs Ghosh.

What’s in a place?

As with most of his films, the setting in Typewriter is more than just a backdrop in the narrative. In the Vidya Balan-starrer, Kahaani (2012), for instance, a dynamic Kolkata is a protagonist. And in Badla (2019), Glasgow becomes integral in accentuating the lead character’s loneliness in a foreign land. For this series, the director — along with his co-writer Suresh Nair — settled on the idea of an imposing, remote and haunted mansion named Bardez Villa.

Goa also lent isolation and dynamic spaces to his story, admits Ghosh. “It has those nice lanes, intimate settings which are a mixture of modern and old; villas and bungalows. And it’s not a concrete jungle, so the terrain allows the kids to actually go on an adventure,” he explains.

Ghostbusters of Goa: on director Sujoy Ghosh’s first Netflix series, 'Typewriter'

While both actor and director hope to collaborate again in the future, Ghosh’s focus for the moment is on Typewriter. “If the script demands Jisshu, he’ll be there,” he says. “I am a beggar, not a chooser. My script is my begging bowl.”

For now though, he is immersing himself in another horror series helmed by kids: the third season of Stranger Things. “That’s a little more mature,” he says, comparing his show with the Millie Bobby Brown-starrer. “But I’d say they’re definitely on the same shelf.”

Typewriter will release on Netflix on July 19

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 11:25:19 AM |

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