'Killer Soup' Review: Konkona Sen, Manoj Bajpayee cook up a flavourful dark comedy

The eight-episode dark comedy series is available to stream on Netflix

By Lekha Menon

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Published: Sat 13 Jan 2024, 11:15 AM

Last updated: Sun 14 Jan 2024, 1:07 PM

In a tense moment in Killer Soup, while trying to crack the mystery behind a murder, two cops attempt to zero in on a suspect who is cock-eyed. “But he is…Looking London…” begins one. “Talking Tokyo…” completes the other.

For the uninitiated: In popular slang, “Looking London, Talking Tokyo” is often used to describe someone whose vision is slightly askew. This hilarious moment is not thrown in for effect or as a joke, but delivered with such deadpan casualness that you can’t help but chuckle.

Netflix’s latest series, starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Manoj Bajpayee, is peppered with such gems, and despite the dark and often bizarre premise, the on-screen happenings serve up just the right doses of mystery, crime, passion and humour to ensure a rollicking ride. The eight-episode dark comedy does tend to stretch in between, there are some shockers and a few unnecessary elements but director Abhishek Chaubey’s grip on the screenplay is so tight that just when things begin to derail, it comes back right on track.

The trailer was a good starter that gave us an idea of the story. Konkona plays Swathi Shetty, an aspiring chef who makes the worst paya in the world. She has an affair with a masseuse Umesh (Manoj Bajpayee) who bears a striking resemblance to her corrupt businessman husband Prabhakar aka Prabhu (Manoj again). Prabhu stumbles upon their affair, a fight ensues and he is murdered. So far, so predictable. But then comes the quirky twist when wicked Swathi suggests Umesh take her husband’s place. But can the devilish duo get away with their imperfect crime?

No, they can’t. Not with Prabhu’s eccentric, foul-mouthed brother Arvind Shetty (Sayaji Shinde), a gruff, world weary cop (Nasser) and a loyal associate Lucas (Malayalam actor Lal) in the vicinity. Add to the mix a weird cooking teacher, a seductive employee, a firebrand teen and some bumbling cops and detectives, and the plot travels all over the fictional Maijnur city in Tamil Nadu. Swathi and Umesh descend into spiral of lies as one crime and cover-up leads to another.

In a series of this nature, it’s essential to keep the twists and turns coming, and Chaubey and his writers Ananth Tripathi, Unaiza Merchant and Harshad Nalawade deliver on this requirement. This is no clear and light broth but a dark brew where several layers are unpeeled, each character has a backstory and motive, and betrayals reign supreme. Robert Frost’s ‘Miles to go before I sleep…’ keeps getting quoted, and there is Shakespearean touch to some of Swathi’s Lady Macbeth-like actions, but overall, the proceedings are light. The humour is there in dollops (a particular running joke on Manisha Koirala is one of the most original pieces of comedy I have seen in a while – outlandish but never offensive), and in most parts, you are rooting for the criminal couple.

However, these very elements also are the minuses in an otherwise interesting plot. Too many ingredients in this bubbling pot and several convoluted and far-fetched occurrences make it difficult to keep track of who’s betraying whom and why. The story lags in between but what keeps it consistently watchable are the actors.

This brings me to a question: Why do deliciously devious female leads make for such interesting characters on cinema? Watching Konkona have a blast playing the selfish, intelligent yet utterly crooked Swathi reminded me of the fun Tabu had as Simi, the seductive murderer in Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun. In that film, as in this series, it’s the woman who takes charge of a tricky situation while her supportive but scared lover quakes in fear. Heck, there is even a meta reference to Andhadhun in the scene where Swathi asks Umesh, ‘Main koi serial killer hun kya’? (Am I a serial killer?) when he expresses doubts about a character’s sudden death. (Non-spoiler alert: She did have an indirect role to play in the episode!). Fans of Andhadhun would remember a similar line uttered by an unrepentant Simi.

The other ladies have done extremely well too, be it Anula Navlekar as Sayaji Shinde’s sharp daughter, Apeskha, and Kani Kusruti as the kalarippayattu expert and a polite but smouldering accountant, Kirtima who has secrets of her own. Each of them contributes to the mess in the Shettys’ lives.

Not that the men are any less. Be it Nasser or Sayaji Shinde or even Anbuthasan, the rookie, overenthusiastic ASI Thuppali, every actor has clearly had a lot of fun. Finally, there is Manoj Bajpayee. Now, the man really does not need an endorsement of his talent, does he? Be it the smarmy Prabhu or the scared Umesh, he is an absolute delight. And this brings us to another question: why haven’t we seen Konkona Sen Sharma and Manoj Bajpayee together before? There is nothing more satisfying than watching brilliant actors at the top of their game, and that’s what we feel when we see them play off each other.

The essence of the Killer Soup flavour can be compared to Hotel California, that incidentally, the name of the resort that Prabhu dreams of owning. You can certainly check in, but can’t leave it. Enjoy this soup, sip by sip…it’s far better than Swathi’s paya.

Killer Soup

Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Konkona Sen

Stars: 3.5/5

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