Killer Soup, created by Abhishek Chaubey, is a lukewarm stew of confusion and missed opportunities.
An ambitious but untalented home chef named Swathi Shetty (Konkona Sensharma) devises a strange scheme to have her lover, Umesh (Manoj Bajpayee), take over for her husband, Prabhakar (Bajpayee). However, everything goes wrong, and mayhem breaks out when an incompetent local inspector and some amateur crooks mix things up.
Almost two years ago, the series was announced as Soup. However, the makers rightfully changed the title to Killer Soup when it was officially set for release. The title montage of each episode hints at how there's something "killer" going to happen as per locations and intent. The series, stretching for almost eight hours, takes on a bizarre trip where no one is in their sane mind. The end of the episode reminds me of a Mexican telenovela where you see the twist coming and still get surprised. But, as the journey unfolds, Abhishek Chaubey's series gets exhaustive and ends in the same place where it all began.
Macguffin Pictures is the filmmaker's home banner, and it refers to "a plot device used in books and films to motivate characters and drive the story." In Killer Soup, the plot device is Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. It is quite interesting to incorporate this poem into the picture, as it has an Indian connection and is widely quoted: "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep."
The lines from the poem are what make up the whole plot, and they're to the point yet set an underlying tone throughout. However, talking about the plot, Swathi (Konkona) and Prabhakar (Manoj) have been married for two decades; happily or not, they do show they are a perfect couple. However, if there was a loyalty test, they would vanish from the face of the earth instantly. Swathi cheats on Prabhakar with Umesh, who is a lookalike of her husband but has long hair and a squinted eye. In the first episode, we see that in self-defence, Prabhakar is killed, and then you know the drill.
In every episode, we see that the people in the small town of Mainjur are so well connected that you will know them physically but nothing about them. Chaubey explores these human studies while showing that whatever is happening around it's more than what meets the eye. Yet, the conclusive act doesn't make up for the entirety of the series, which is burning slowly but not a slowburn, so to speak. The ignition and constant deaths and shoots of every character make you wonder where it is going. The wackiness of the story is intentional. However, the story mirrors the stagnation of the small town, where the rest of the population remains ignorant until they are pulled into it.
With Konkona being the centre of too many cooks, the broth soup does get spoiled like it has since the beginning of the series. She is also the secret ingredient of being unapologetic about her wrongdoings; her brilliant act is what hooked me constantly till the end. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the contributions of the other actors. They cracked a casting coup, which is so impressive that they are actually the saving grace. From roping in actors from almost every industry, such as Nasser as Hassan the cop, Sayaji Shinde as Arvind Shetty, Prabhakar's abusive elder brother, and Lal as Lucas, the family friend, Killer Soup has it all and drags you in with the right amount.
But the cost they have to pay is the lack of depth in the content. Chaubey penned the screenplay with Unaiza Merchant, Harshad Nalawade, and Anant Tripathi; unfortunately, too many cooks did spoil the broth of Killer Soup. There are several moments that stand out in the first place, especially Swathi finally getting close to being caught. However, it turns out to be just one of many instances. So does Umesh as Prabhakar, almost breaking the character. Despite the first episode clearly revealing the identity of the killer, I was almost convinced that Prabhakar was alive and Umesh had died. Given the supernatural turn the series takes with Nasser's character, you anticipate an overall implementation of such a twist.
But for the plot to thicken, it gets so busy stirring that you expect someone to grab a spoon and taste it to feel if it's going down the right path. Well, not until the end and even after, to be honest.
In terms of performances, I want to give full marks to each and every actor for playing wacky as well as borderline annoying characters. From Konkona making her eyes do the talking with her up to the mark in English and Tamil, you know that she is aware of what she signed up for. The actor is bold as well as stupendous in exploring even idiocracies throughout the show. Her soft-spoken demeanour enhances her portrayal of the bizarre villain in the series.
First of all, I am glad to see Manoj finally with Konkona after these many years. The comfort and raw chemistry needed in the series were visually delightful to see. Evidently, the actor defies categorization and avoids being confined to a single role. Having been playing dark comedy roles earlier as well, this was a cakewalk. The actor effortlessly brought the innocence that Umesh needed while also simultaneously being a cunning man while emulating Prabhakar.
Another surprise was by Anula Navlekar, as Apeksha, aka Appu, was the young niece of Swathi and Prabhakar. The actor got the groove of the wackiness along with the rest of the cast and even managed to gauge the attention of the viewers while being on the screen.
Meanwhile, veterans such as Nasser, Sayaji Shinde, and Lal do what they do best and perform in the best possible way, like they have been doing for years. However, it was refreshing to see all three actors performing flawlessly, showcasing their expertise in what they know best, even after all these years.
Chaubey has been known for creating worlds that one imagines, but he brings them to the screen. From Udta Punjab to Dedh Ishqiya to even Sonchirya, we have seen the filmmaker bring actors from different spaces together and create a new frame altogether. Furthermore, the filmmaker prioritises the setting of the story. In this instance, the series' emphasis on character arcs did not align well with the excessively prolonged screenplay.
The series perfectly fits into the intended genre: a black comedy with a dash of thriller. But this could have also been just a film!
The final taste of Killer Soup leaves a lingering aftertaste of complexity. In the attempt to create an offbeat series, it becomes slightly overcooked, making me wonder if the recipe could have been a tad shorter.