Netflix India drama ‘Axone’ (pronounced akhuni) is an honest depiction of the everyday struggle of North East people living in Delhi. While it can be any other Indian metros where some people consider migrants as outsiders and treat them badly because they are different (in terms of looks, language, and culture), we in general conveniently ignore the fact that we all are equally Indians.
Anyone who has lived in New Delhi or the NCR region, they must have seen many northeastern friends who are either studying or in different jobs. And, in recent times, we have read several news reports from cities like Gurgaon, Delhi, and Bengaluru, where locals discriminate and even in some cases have beaten up northeasterners for various reasons. For this longstanding issue of discrimination against our fellow Indians, a film like ‘Axone’ was long due.
‘Axone’ movie story – Depicting prejudices with relatable characters
Set in Delhi, filmmaker Nicholas Kharkongor’s ‘Axone’ follows a group of northeastern youngsters trying to cook a traditional dish on the occasion of a friend’s marriage. As expected, they struggle to find a place to cook, as cooking a pork dish with Axone paste (fermented soybeans) leaves a pungent smell that would alarm the neighbors, who often complain.
The socio-cultural drama further brings in elements of discrimination where a boy slaps a girl after an argument while the people around her simply look on. Then some neighbors have been critical of young northeast girls inviting their male friends home. At the same time, there are a few positive sides where we meet a northeastern lady married to a Sikh family and the landlady’s grandson who is friendly with the tenants and often ready to help them, just to be a part of the gang.
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‘Axone’ brings forward the discourse on racism in India
The Axone dish here is the prop that represents the discrimination and certainly asks us why some cannot celebrate the custom they want, why cannot they have whatever food they like! Moreover, where do we stop in the debate about ‘us and them.’ We already have a repressing caste system, religious intolerance, and now regionalism.
‘Axone’ brought the discourse on racism in India but did not make any hard commentary. Those on the receiving end of such intolerance may even see the film as very soft on those who often pass racial comments. However, in a larger context, we can see the filmmaker’s attempt in talking about a subject that has never been depicted in mainstream Indian cinema. Also, as most of us know – northeasterners are not even properly represented in the Indian film industry. We hardly see any filmmakers or actors coming to the fore with their stories and visions.
It is a film that is not only created by a filmmaker who is from a northeast state but also acted by several performers who belong to the northeastern part of India. This even makes the film more authentic and honest in tonality. The beauty of ‘Axone’ is it never takes any side or becomes too preachy. There is even a scene where one character Chanbi tells her boyfriend about how not all the people in the city are bad and how most have always been good to them, and also how he has made no effort in making friends outside the community.
With its lighthearted presentation, yet with few pertinent questions on the issue of racism, ‘Axone’ is a nice film to watch and learn about certain realities in our society, the value of friendship, love, and in the end, trying to make that effort in bridging the gap between us.
We must mention here that the performances by almost everyone on screen are great that helped the story move forward with ease. Among others, Sayani Gupta as Nepali girl Upasana; Lanuakum Ao as Bendang with a troubled past related to an incident of racism; Lin Laishram as Chanbi, an independent and determined girl; Dolly Ahluwalia as the loud landlady; and Rohan Joshi as ‘Hyper’ Shiv, together makes the film worth a watch.
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