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‘Killer Soup’ Review: Konkona Sensharma Is Mesmerising in This Gripping Thriller

Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

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‘Killer Soup’ Review: Konkona Sensharma Is Mesmerising in This Gripping Thriller

Swathi Shetty (Konkona Sensharma) has a dream – to one day own her own restaurant and the prize dish will be her paya soup. A soup that is introduced in well-crafted cooking shots but is later revealed to actually not be that great. Swathi’s husband Prabhakar ‘Prabhu’ Shetty (Manoj Bajpayee) makes lofty promises to everyone around him, including his wife. Prabhu, a man who projects himself as more god-like than he is, has also seemingly conned his brother Arvind (Sayaji Shinde). 

Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

Konkona Sensharma in a still from Killer Soup.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Swathi is herself leading a double life – she wears a burkha most times when trying to either secretly meet the woman who is teaching her to cook or to meet her lover, a masseuse Umesh (Bajpayee). Circumstances turn out exactly as you would expect them to and… 

(Spoiler alert for the first two episodes) 

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…Umesh ends up replacing Prabhu in the eyes of the world. Now our resident Bonnie and Clyde, Swathi and Umesh get stuck in a web of their own lies. But the woman who was still struggling to fine-tune her paya recipe seems to enter a world of crime with almost an expertise. All the plotting and scheming seems to come naturally to her even as it chips away at the obedient (and silently suffering) Umesh. 

(Spoilers technically done)

Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee in a still from Killer Soup.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Director Abhishek Chaubey along with co-writers and creators Anaiza Merchant, Anant Tripathi and Harshad Nalawade builds a world of dark comedy so indulgent and gripping that most times, the flaws just slip through the cracks. This is a show that feels extremely sure of itself even as multiple characters exclaim, “What the f* just happened?” 

Though set in a fictional town, the makers decision to root the characters deeply in their landscape enriches the show. The characters speak in Hindi, Tamil, and Dakkani, for instance. At the same time, Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ and lines by Robert Frost punctuate the tale.  

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The name ‘Killer Soup’ suggests something immensely simple – maybe someone poisons the soup to kill someone. Pity. But that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface – in fact the soup takes a back seat when every character, almost each rotten to the core, begins to plot and backstab and attack without a second thought. 

Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

Manoj Bajpayee in a still from Killer Soup.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

It’s almost ironic that a show that builds itself up from one character’s mediocrity or actually her incapability (of making paya soup) is held together by the actor’s breathtaking performance and her ability to outshine everyone around her. Konkana Sensharma is a vision – her screen presence feels almost mesmerising which matches perfectly with the show’s surrealism. It becomes evident that Swathy is a deeply tragic character and glimpses of Lady Macbeth (and even Macbeth himself) make themselves visible in her demeanour.

It is Sensharma’s ability to create a character that is so delightfully misguided, almost villainous, and yet tragic that keeps Killer Soup engaging. 
Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

Konkona Sensharma in a still from Killer Soup.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Then there is Manoj Bajpayee making Umesh the perfect character for Swathy to play off of. The way Bajpayee plays Umesh is almost pathetic but in a way where you are more concerned than disgusted. It’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart in Killers of the Flower Moon if he had a conscience. It is Bajpayee’s willingness to almost self-deprecate his character that makes Umesh so believable. Even when Umesh is pretending to be Prabhu it never really sticks. It is convincing but feels like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. 

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That is perhaps the heartbreaking beauty of both Umesh and Swathy – they aren’t islands. Umesh Mahto and Swathy are both people who have been disadvantaged by society. Umesh is said to be a man on the run but the circumstances of his crimes never come to light. And here they both are, trying to fulfill their dreams because at least we are all afforded dreams. Yet, throughout the show we see how ‘dignity’ plays a big role – in anger, power dynamics come into play quickly. 

Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

A still from Killer Soup.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Killer Soup is also one of the rare instances of having a near picture-perfect ensemble cast. From Sayaji Shinde playing Arvind like a character of Mirzapur accidentally landing up in an Abhishek Chaubey show to Anula Navlekar as his daughter Apeksha who only wishes to move to France to pursue art. Then there are the cops in this world of crime – the truth continues to elude Inspector Hassan (Nassar) even as he keeps stumbling closer to the answers, guided by the wide-eyed ingénue Thupalli (a delightful Anbuthasan). 

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Kani Kusruti’s turn as the devoted and fierce Kirtima was one of my favourites. If ambition drives Swathy, passion drives Kirtima and this dichotomy is brilliant to watch on screen as it unfurls. What seems important to Kirtima is laughable to Swathy even as the former looks at the latter in something resembling pity. 

Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

A still from Killer Soup.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

In Killer Soup, death and loss are prevalent throughout. Starting with Frost’s ‘the woods are lovely, dark and deep’ to the soulful ‘Sinnerman’, loss is folded into Killer Soup’s recipe. That is also why it makes sense when even as the characters and some of the arcs are pushed to their limits, moments of humanity and tenderness emerge. There are few innocents in the game – they often are the obvious vessels for our empathy – but almost every character becomes almost desperate towards the end. Some trying to avoid what is in front of them, others lashing out. 

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And then there is the visual language of Killer Soup. Anuj Rakesh Dhawan’s camera creates magic on screen – a medical operation feels hauntingly similar to the montage of food being cooked. In a sequence (and kudos to the director’s eye for imagery and the surreal), Swathy looks like she is standing at the gates of heaven. The set design and production have also done wonders for Chaubey’s world. 

Killer Soup, starring Konkona Sensharma and Manoj Bajpayee is streaming on Netflix.

Konkona Sensharma in a still from Killer Soup.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Killer Soup is not without its faults however – while some of the poetic sequences feel inventive, others feel unnecessary. By the time the eighth episode starts with the iconic Netflix ‘tudum’, I felt slightly exhausted, like I was on a trek that had gone on for longer than necessary. Killer Soup would have benefited from being perhaps an episode or two shorter. But if you are to give a show your patience, this one is it. 

Killer Soup is streaming on Netflix.

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