The Hindi web series Killer Soup is directed by Abhishek Chaubey and stars Manoj Bajpayee, Konkona Sensharma, Nasser, Sayaji Shinde, Kani Kusruti, Lal, Anula Navlekar, Jasir, Rajeev Ravindranathan, Anbuthasan, Vaishali Bisht, Shilpa Mudbi.
This is perhaps a season of movies with food-based themes. Just the other week, we had the Tamil film Annapurani, which, by the way, has run into problems in India and has been taken off Netflix. It dealt with a young chef and her dreams. And now we have Killer Soup, in which we have a bowl of bone broth (paya soup) shaken and stirred but hardly consumed.
Here, too, a woman with the ambition of having her own restaurant is at the centre of it all. It is her appetite for love and ladle, as it were, that sets in motion a mad whirligig of action, reaction and many other unintended events that are weird and wonky but seldom wishy-washy. For, there is a gaggle of odd-ball characters with bizarre motives and methods. But when so many diverse ingredients come together, the soup is deliciously dark but also gets diluted as the various flavours don’t organically meld.
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The story, apparently from a real-life murder involving a woman who kills her husband and tries to pass off her paramour as her husband, is the central plot here and happens in some Tamil-speaking hilly places. And there are plenty of Tamil lines in the dialogues (credited to Siva Ananth, director Mani Ratnam’s associate and executive producer). Talking of Mani, the famed song Tu Hi Re from his movie Bombay is intriguingly invoked many times here.
Swathy (Konkona Sen Sharma), a homemaker and passionate cook, wants to set up her own eatery. Her venal businessman husband Prabhakar (Manoj Bajpayee) is hardly interested in her ideas. As a couple, there is no real simmering heat between them to keep things warm. Swathy has, however, hots for Umesh Shetty (Manoj Bajpayee again), the man who works at the massage spa that Prabhakar frequents. Umesh is a look-alike of Prabha, and that helps in the plot when Prabhakar is eased off from the scene.
As it is, the three are a bit wacky and off-kilter, and they are amidst a circus of characters who are equally, if not more, zany. There is the wily and motor-mouthed Arvind Shetty (Sayaji Shinde), the brother of Prabha. There is his lackey Lucas (Lal), the man who knows where the keys are to every closet laden with skeletons. Then there is the cop Hassan (Nasser), along with his assistants Asha (Shilpa Mudbi) and Thupalli (Anbuthasan), whose enthusiasm is no adequate cover for his sloppiness.
After Umesh dons the role of Prabhakar the bizarre situation gets ‘bizarrer’ as more things emerge from behind and beneath as things get surreal. No one is perfect. Everyone has something to hide or hidden. There is deception and trickery galore, and everything gets giddy and surreal. By the time of climax, you are not sure of what to make of the concoction.
Directed and co-created by Abhishek Chaubey alongside Unaiz Merchant and Harshad Nalawade, Killer Soup, which is Netflix’s first original of the year in India, is not boring or bland. But is it appetizing all through? That is a different matter altogether.
The director Abhishek Chaubey, who is no stranger to handling abstruse and obtuse characters (his previous films as director include Ishqiya, Dedh Ishqiya, Udta Punjab, Sonchiriya), doesn’t stir the pot enough so the cooking is uneven, some portions delicious and some other raw and undercooked.
The delicious parts belong to Manoj Bajpayee, the man who has clearly hit a purple patch in his OTT innings. Here, he has to play the same man but differently — it is that complicated. But nothing is beyond him these days as Manoj Bajpayee bites into the complex characters with relish. Anyone can play a villain, but only a few can pull it off where the deviousness is served with dollops of delight.
Sayaji Shinde, as his bro, is full of irreverence but without being gross or vulgar. In fact, the strength of this 8-part series is despite its steaminess, it doesn’t get cheap. There are also performers like Konkona who can sell you any role, even if that of a two-timing, scheming wife, with credible gusto. Nasser, with the bumbling cops in tow, is also excellent.
The characters and the acting make up for the sometimes watery broth.
Where can you watch Killer Soup in the UAE?
Killer Soup is currently streaming on Netflix in the UAE.
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.