‘Curry & Cyanide: The Jolly Joseph Case’ is a disturbing tale of a woman who killed six family members over 14 years

Jolly Joseph with Roy Thomas on their wedding day. Picture: Supplied

Jolly Joseph with Roy Thomas on their wedding day. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 12, 2024


As a fan of true-crime offerings, I was intrigued by Curry & Cyanide: The Jolly Joseph Case, which is streaming on Netflix.

The film, directed by Christo Tomy, tells the disturbing story of Jolly Joseph, who is from a close-knit village called Koodathayi in Kerala, India.

Over 14 years, Jolly allegedly killed six of her family members. Her first victim was her mother-in-law, Annamma; next, her father-in-law, Tom Thomas; then her husband, Roy, followed by Shaju’s (Roy’s cousin) 2-year-old daughter, Alphine Shaju; Roy’s uncle Mathew Manjadiyil; and last, Shaju’s wife, Cily.

Jolly married Shaju after the death of his wife.

The time frame between killings shortened with each murder.

The film introduces Jolly as someone who gravitated towards a soft life. Despite coming from a hard-working farming family, she was not willing to get her hands dirty, so to speak.

As such, she married into the Ponnamattam family, who were held in high esteem in their community.

Renji opens up about how Jolly Joseph manipulated the family. Picture: Supplied

Trouble started brewing shortly after she got married, when her mother-in-law started pushing her to get a job, given her qualifications.

Jolly, stressed that her in-laws would find out that she had lied about her qualifications, decides to do something about it. Not long afterwards, she falls pregnant with her first-born son, Remo. But the issue doesn’t go away and so Jolly’s mother-in-law becomes her first victim.

She immediately steps up to run the household and makes her sister-in-law, Renji, feel uncomfortable. After completing her studies, Renji gets married and leaves.

Next, Jolly’s father-in-law starts noticing that she is getting a little too friendly with a guy from the jewellery store. He addresses this with her. Before long, he too dies.

By this time, her second son, Reynold, is born, and their financial struggles are becoming worse.

When her husband dies, his uncle insists on an autopsy. Cyanide is listed as the cause of death. Roy’s siblings, Rojo and Renji, start suspecting something is amiss and report it to the police.

Unfortunately, it is only after several more deaths in the family before police are able to link it back to Jolly.

Meanwhile, Renji, despite having her own family, steps in to also take care of Jolly’s two sons.

The narrative includes feedback from retired cop KG Simon, who headed the investigation, Remo, Rojo, Renji, a journalist, social activist, psychology expert and toxicologist. It also features her advocate BA Aloor.

Jolly was motivated by greed to eliminate anyone who stood in her way. Her lack of empathy, coupled with her criminal mind, ties in with a serial killer mindset.