'Killer Soup' team interview: The p(l)ot thickens

Manoj Bajpayee, Konkona Sensharma and director Abhishek Chaubey on Killer Soup
'Killer Soup' team interview: The p(l)ot thickens

In the upcoming crime-comedy series Killer Soup, a husband gets killed by his wife and her paramour. A classic crime of passion, so far. What follows is a bit bizarre. The lover, who uncannily resembles the husband, fills in for him. Then he and the wife cover up the crime and try to pretend that nobody was ever murdered. What’s better, although “very, very loosely” as the makers state, the show is inspired by a news headline.

In 2017, a woman in Telangana killed her husband with the aid of her lover, poured acid to disfigure his paramour’s face and tried to purport him as the husband. “Somebody actually thought it would work,” says creator and director Abhishek Chaubey, adding that the news story only served as a starting point for the show.

“The internet is rife with such Savdhaan India-type stories. My co-writers, Anant (Tripathi), Harshad (Nalawade) and Unaiza (Merchant) approached me with it. Mostly, when you get deep into such news stories, the reality turns out to be very prosaic and boring. Hence, we decided to not go into what really happened but think along the lines of ‘What if?’. The inspiration came from an actual headline, but the series became kind of its own beast,” he adds.

“When Abhishek talked about the headline and how he wants to adapt it into a show, he took us through a non-stop snowballing crime-thriller plot,” says Tanya Bami, Series Head, Netflix India. “His signature dark humour made it even more gripping.”

The show stars Manoj Bajpayee as the husband and lover: Prabhakar Shetty and Umesh Pillai; while the wife Swathi’s role has been essayed by Konkona Sensharma. It’s surprising that both Manoj and Konkona, industry veterans who are otherwise known for a similar brand of cinema, hadn’t been paired up till now. “It’s strange, isn’t it?” says Konkona. “We both have been working in similar kinds of zones and yet it hadn’t happened so far. I thank Abhishek for putting us together.” Manoj adds that he couldn’t hold back his excitement when Konkona was finalised for the series. “Abhishek called me one day and asked, ‘Sir, how would Konkona be for the role?’ and I was like, ‘Are you really asking me how she would be? She would be great!’”

Although Killer Soup is Konkona’s maiden project with both Manoj and Abhishek, the latter two have worked together before on the dacoit-drama Sonchiriya (2019) and the fantastical-comedy Hungama Hain Kyon Barpa, a segment in the Netflix anthology Ray (2021). Manoj states that it’s mutual admiration and “similar likings in food choices” that clicks them together. “I know that for all the questions I don’t have an answer for, Abhishek will. With him, you know you are in safe hands. Even if you fall short, you will be well taken care of,” he says. When asked how Abhishek approached him for the series, Manoj states, “He doesn’t really have to pitch anything to me. If it’s his project, I am already there.”

Another interesting casting is of Sayaji Shinde, who played the menacing antagonist Bachchu Yadav against Manoj’s quixotic cop Samar Pratap Singh in the 1999 film Shool. In Killer Soup, Sayaji plays Arvind, the funnily volatile brother of the murdered husband Prabhakar. “I remember finding him for Shool,” says Manoj. “Ramu (director Ram Gopal Varma) had given me the responsibility of finding a villain for the film. One day, I saw an advertisement for a play and Sayaji’s face was printed on it. I thought to myself, ‘I must meet him, he is apt for the role.’ When I took him to Ramu, he agreed too and that’s how Sayaji became part of Shool. Since then, he has been a dear friend.”

Abhishek adds that the camaraderie between the two actors was evident while shooting. “They had a lot of fun both on and off set. The bond of brothers they have in real life reflected on the screen,” he says.
A quirky bit in the show is that the lover Umesh Pillai, at frequent instances, croons ‘Tu Hi Re’ (from Mani Ratnam’s Bombay) to pacify Konkona’s Swathi. “It is the song of these lovers who are lying to the world,” says Abhishek. “I was in Class 12 when I saw the song for the first time on screen. It left an impact on my 18-year-old brain,” he adds. “Moreover, Manoj just sings it too well.”

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The New Indian Express