National Award-winning filmmaker Christo Tomy presents a feature length documentary on the circumstances in the infamous Jolly Joseph case, involving 6 deaths in a span of 14 years
Curry & Cyanide story: In 2019, a 47-year-old mother of two, Jolly Joseph, was arrested in Koodathayi, Kozhikode, following allegations of murder using cyanide. Over the course of 14 years, Jolly is alleged to have killed six people, including her first husband, his maternal uncle and parents, as well as her second husband’s first wife and young daughter.
Curry & Cyanide review: Netflix’s latest true-crime documentary, Curry & Cyanide: The Jolly Joseph Case, employs National Award-winning filmmaker Christo Tomy to bring the tale of Kerala’s infamous Koodathayi murderer to the screen. As juicy as the content may seem, the trouble with Curry & Cyanide is that its chief subject – Jolly Joseph – remains in remand in the case that is still sub-judice. The makers, as such, can only present facts that are related to the case and are already in the public domain. This also means that despite reports that Jolly has confessed to all six murders, she has not been convicted yet and, as such, remains innocent until proven guilty. And, according to her defence attorney, he’s hell-bent on getting her walk out scot-free.
In an earlier conversation with OTTplay, director Christo Tomy had said that the focus of the documentary, which he has shot as a single feature length film at about an hour and a half run-time, was to be as objective as possible, providing a balanced picture of what unfolded in Koodathayi. But with no corroboration or denial coming in from any of the accused in the case, Curry & Cyanide relies heavily on the narrative from the kith and kin of the deceased – in this case, the siblings of Jolly’s first husband Roy Thomas.
Curry & Cyanide is for the most part, late Roy Thomas’ sister Reji’s account of what unfolded at the family abode, Ponnamattam house. Jolly, a not-too distant relative of the family, and Roy fell in love and got married. Having claimed that she is an M.Com graduate, Jolly was, apparently under pressure from her mother-in-law Annamma to find suitable employment. Annamma allegedly became Jolly’s first victim when she became aware that the latter holds no higher qualification. And yet, for several years thereafter, Jolly managed to hoodwink the entire family that she was a guest lecturer at NIT.
The prosecution’s contention is that the desire for a better life and property is what drove Jolly to get rid of her father-in-law, Roy, his maternal uncle and then, turn her attention to the family of her current husband, whose wife and two-year-old daughter also became victims along the way. Jolly is supposed to have laced the food of each of her victims with cyanide, although only the post-mortem report of Roy reveals the same. Following Jolly’s arrest in 2019, the mortal remains of all her alleged victims were exhumed and analysed for cause of death, with only two revealing traces of cyanide.
The Jolly Joseph case has received much media coverage over the years, so chances are that you will be aware of the charges against her. Curry & Cyanide leaves you none the wiser as far as the ‘facts’ go. What you do get is a first-hand account of the events at Ponnamattam house as seen/heard by Roy’s sister, who is now the guardian of his two sons. This one is a serious misstep for Netflix, which had gained a stamp of authority in the true-crime genre. The making is not great, the end result is rather unimpressive and all it does is serve as a refresher course if you are looking at jogging your memory about the crimes in this case.
Earlier this year, netizens went ga-ga over Netflix’s true-crime documentary about slain forest brigand Veerappan and then, weeks ago, Zee5 came along with its version and showed them how it’s to be done with a far superior version. This will, most definitely, not be the last time that Jolly Joseph’s case catches the fancy of a filmmaker. Hopefully, the next time it does, the court would have decided if she was really the brain behind the Koodathayi killings or not.
Curry & Cyanide verdict: If you have been following the media reportage of the Jolly Joseph case, honestly, Curry & Cyanide does not offer anything new. Do not watch it in the hope of uncovering hitherto unknown details of the case. This one’s a misfire.