When it comes to Indian Netflix productions, especially shows with an adequate budget, the black comedy crime thriller genre is one of the most popular combinations, from the perspective of both makers and viewers. The latest work in this long line is Killer Soup, an intriguing show made up of eight hour-long episodes, starring some of the most recognized actors in the country. While Manoj Bajpayee is one of the most popular and skilled actors in film and web, Konkona Sen Sharma’s gradual establishment in mainstream Hindi cinema has also placed her as one of the finest actors and directors of the time. The two veterans come together in Killer Soup, as Sen Sharma plays the ambitious and cunning Swathi Shetty, while Bajpayee plays the dual role of the woman’s husband, Prabhakar Shetty, and also her illicit lover, Umesh Pillai.
The couple is at the very heart of the plot in this Netflix series, even though one of them does not last very long into its duration. Swathi Shetty is a housewife with the soaring aspirations of becoming a chef and a restaurateur, and she has recently taken her husband’s promise of giving her adequate money to fulfill her dreams very seriously. But Prabhakar’s words were not at all earnest from his side, and the man had meant it only as a crude joke. In fact, Swathi is actually a terrible cook, and neither her husband nor her illicit lover, Umesh Pillai, can admit the truth to her. Because of Swathi’s resolute nature, and also the fact that she is essentially a cash cow for the latter, the mysterious Khansama, who has been training Swathi in culinary skills, also hides the truth from her.
The protagonist continues on her merry way, cooking up trotter soup on a daily basis as her practice work, until she discovers a private detective has photographed her moments of intimacy with Umesh. In a desperate effort to find a solution to this grave problem, Swathi ends up in much deeper trouble when she and her lover accidentally kill her husband at their house. Instead of following Umesh’s nervous pleas to surrender themselves to the police, the woman decides to make use of a bizarre coincidence—that both her husband and her lover look the same.
Killer Soup is filled with nuances of the typical Indian melodrama, where there are ample coincidences that are often quite convenient for the plot as well. It is possible to find the very premise of the plot very stretched and absurd, for nobody notices the strong resemblance between the two men. This is also especially hard to believe after Prabhu’s elder brother, Arvind, does make a note about this similarity in appearance at the beginning, and also since he is extremely suspicious and unfriendly towards his sister-in-law. However, it is perhaps also to be remembered that the series is not extremely rooted in realism. There are multiple events and happenings that are too improbable in reality and much more dramatic than any common man’s life. In this manner, Killer Soup does come off as a twisted modern take on the melodramatic traditions of Indian cinema, in which confusion regarding one’s parental lineage and the most crucial clues being conveniently unnoticed are no uncommon affair.
Manoj Bajpayee is almost as good as ever, even though his character does seem a bit repetitive only at certain points. The veteran actor’s performance is all the more laudable because of his dual roles, the first being as the confident and brash Prabhu and the second as the timid and more restrained Umesh. Both the characters have distinctions, which gradually merge as the series goes on, and Bajpayee aptly plays out the whole part. Although, in my personal opinion, it would have been more entertaining to see the unapologetic Prabhu for slightly longer had the plot somehow permitted. The attraction of the show, in terms of performance and character, is definitely Konkona and her cleverly written Swathi. The woman, who is never given too much agency or respect by her family members and who is not unaccustomed to men raising a hand on her, decides to push through to achieve her dreams no matter what. There is surely a chance to wonder whether Swathi’s murderous tendencies and her fearless choices along the way are a twisted expression of the repressed identity that she has had to maintain since her marriage. In multiple ways, Swathi is exactly what a woman is not supposed to be, according to society, for she is not only a wife but also a mother, and this makes her character all the more intriguing.
Killer Soup also has a wide range of side characters, all of whom are satisfyingly explored and given enough flesh under their skin to feel real—well, as real as this drama could be. Arvind Shetty is played by the brilliant Sayaji Shinde, whose deft performance makes the character as despicable as intended. Arvind’s daughter, Apeksha, is also one of the most entertaining characters, as she shows almost similar signs as Swathi when it comes to fighting for her dreams and aspirations. Perhaps Apeksha and Swathi are driven by the same desire to break free, with the younger woman only acting before it is too late, signifying the generation gap between the two. The pairing of the two policemen, Hassan and Thupalli, one of whom loses their life but continues to appear throughout the series, also unfolds the story from the side of the law in an intriguing and unique manner.
Abhishek Chaubey’s direction is apt, although it does not really stick out as in his best films like Sonchiriya or Ishqiya. Things are more reliant on the events and reactions of characters in this series, which is the more appropriate style in this case. The excess of expletives in the dialogues successfully conveys the comedic tone they are meant to have. Overall, Killer Soup makes for an entertaining watch if you are able to get over the intentional conveniences of the plotline, which is the biggest single drawback of the work. But if long, twisted narratives do not scare you, and if you are not deterred by comparisons to reality that web shows nowadays are expected to have, then Abhishek Chaubey’s Killer Soup is not a bad watch at all.