Killer Soup is Netflix’s latest in its piping roster of thriller shows (as well as shows about food). The Indian show is an almost Shakespearean comedy of errors-style story that is fun and fast-paced. At its heart, the show is about Swathi Shetty, a wife, a mother, and a woman who aspires to start her own restaurant in the center of her town, Mainjur. She’s wanted this since she can remember, and was promised by her husband that it would eventually happen for her; however, 20 years have passed and it’s all still the same. For now, Swathi’s story is quite a common one in the Indian household scenario. You’d imagine she would’ve let go of her dream with all these years gone by, but she’s very hopeful still. Her journey has only just begun, and something tremendously bizarre is about to happen that will change her life for the better.
Konkona Sen Sharma plays the feisty Swathi. She’s incredible at playing this absurdist role that combines terror and shock with comedy and drama. Swathi’s journey begins with “paya soup,” or trotter soup, a staple dish that she is determined to master. Somehow, though, she can never manage to make it perfect. At the beginning of the show, we get a montage of her cooking this delectable-looking soup; however, the second she hands it to her “loving” husband, he pretends he’s unwell and proceeds to toss it down the sink out of habit, not even bothering to taste it. Supposedly, it’s the putrid smell itself that pushes him away. I don’t actually know if it’s putrid; that’s just my assumption from the repulsive expressions on the faces of the people who have the soup thrust upon them throughout the series. In this sense, technically, the soup is the “killer” of all goodness for those who must try it. Swathi takes this soup to a town gathering where her mortal enemy, Kiritma (Prabhu’s assistant), has brought sophisticated tarts that everyone seems to love. You see, Swathi herself is having an affair under her husband’s nose; however, hypocritically, she hates Kirtima just for being attractive and existing around her husband. What she finds out later, though, is that her hatred is warranted since her husband did actually have an affair with Kirtima.
Swathi wants to make the best soup in town at her restaurant, so she secretly goes knocking on the door of a cook who happens to be living in an area of the city that not everyone considers worthy of their attention. Swathi’s husband specifically hates the idea of Swathi going there, but he’s okay with her teacher (who lives there) coming and giving her personal lessons at home (a typical Indian hypocritical household). But Swathi makes clandestine visits to this woman’s house in a burkha (scandy) so no one will recognize her, despite flaunting her rising sun “bindi,” which is obviously her signature. Nothing this woman does is planned; however, by the end of the show, she becomes a strategic mastermind.
Her life’s soup is ruined when she realizes that her husband knows that she’s having an affair. The guy she’s seeing is his masseuse! Quickly, things start to spiral, and Swathi finds herself drowning in a hot mess. Now Swathi doesn’t seem to really love either Prabhu or Umesh. To me, it appears as if she’s only looking for a sexual partner in Umesh and financial aid from Prabhu. The thing is, Swathi does like Umesh; however, he doesn’t have the money to keep her love; after all, her first love is her restaurant. I suppose, though, that if Umesh did have the money, he’d be the right guy for Swathi because he cares for her enough to give her what she wants with whatever he has. For example, his first thought when he becomes Prabhu is to steal some money from his brother and give Swathi her restaurant. He’s also willing to do anything for her—give his all, you know? But Swathi, on the other hand, is much more calculative.
Despite being married to Prabhu for so many years, Swathi doesn’t even shed a tear when he dies. When Arvind dies, she’s thrilled because she doesn’t have to deal with yet another person wanting her dead or in prison. The Shetty brothers ruined it all for Swathi by giving her the dream and never realizing it. As if the ingredients in her paya soup weren’t already messed up, now her life’s taking the same turn. But Appu is the light at the end of the tunnel for Swathi. It is she who gives Swathi both the financial aid and the confidence to start her restaurant. So, how does the soup at the launch of the restaurant work so well?
Now, we all know that Swathi could never master the soup herself; however, she did dedicate the job to the cook who taught her all she knew. The older woman took Swathi to the forest before the launch of her restaurant and showed her the secret ingredient of her special paya soup. Black, deadly mushrooms, born from the corpse of a dead stag. It’s a really beautiful visual; however, just as delicious as the mushroom makes the soup, it’s deadly when it’s overused. This is somewhat of an analogy for Swathi’s journey in many ways. If you’re at a safe distance from her, you’re all good, but if you get too close, she’ll burn you. We can imagine there are some drug-like properties in this mushroom powder; it might not even be delicious, just psychotropic enough to make one feel like they love the soup. At the end of the show, Umesh ends up drinking a mug of soup with a half-bottle of powder in it. Another sign that he tried to get too close to Swathi. The end of the show is almost romantic in many ways; both Umesh and Swathi end up together on their bus, escaping the city of Mainjur, to go live their rosy dream together. Maybe we can imagine they’ll be serving Killer Soup at their shack in Thailand or Pondicherry, where Swathi makes the soup and Umesh is the masseuse (of course, with the secret ingredient, so it won’t be the death of Swathi’s dreams).
On the other hand, we can also imagine that the soup itself was the killer of Swathi’s big dream, because it’s after Umesh drank it that he decided to spill his guts, not just literally but also about everything that happened so far.