Cast: Lin Laishram, Sayani Gupta, Tenzing Dalha, Dolly Ahluwalia, Rohan Joshi
Director : Nicholas Kharkongor
Our pick for the lockdown review series is Axone, directed by Nicholas Kharkongor, which is currently streaming on Netflix. The film, set in Delhi, throws light on the racism that migrants from the North eastern part of India face in the capital city, and how, despite all odds against them, they continue to build their lives.
What’s the story?
Chanbi (Lin Laishram), Upasna(Sayani Gupta), Minam (Asenla Jamir) are close friends who share a flat in a middle-class neighbourhood in Delhi. Their landlady (Dolly Ahluwalia) keeps complaining about the male guests at Chanbi’s flat and gives them a warning that she’ll not allow it anymore. One day, when Minam goes for her IAS interview on the same day when her wedding is scheduled, her friends get together to cook Axone, a traditional pork dish, to surprise Minam. Problem is, Axone has an extremely pungent smell during its preparation, and it creates a lot of problems for Chanbi, Upasana, and their friends who want to cook the dish at all costs.
Axone is one of the very few films to focus on the ups and downs in the lives of migrants from North-Eastern states living in Delhi. The casual racism that they face because of the way they look and the vulgar comments that women face are shown as a matter-of-fact, and when someone raises their voices, people unleash their violent side on them. There’s a subtle commentary on whether the country is willing to accept these migrants as their own countrymen because their customs, traditions, and even their food seems quite strange to others. While racism and food is an important element in the film, Axone also focuses on how, despite all odds, people from North Eastern states form their own groups in the capital city, which becomes their source of happiness. So, when Chanbi and her boyfriend Bendang (Lanuakum Ao) are insulted in the streets, their past continues to haunt them as a ghost. There’s also a heartbreaking story about how Bendang was almost beaten to death by the locals in Delhi, which causes a lot of resentment and health issues for him. Beyond all this, the film is about friendship and how friends will stand up for each other no matter what. Lin Laishram and Sayani Gupta are brilliant throughout the film, and Rohan Joshi entertains thoroughly.
Despite its core premise about racism, the film is still a lighthearted take on the lives of migrants, which is quite surprising. And so, a lot of potentially tense moments where there’s a conflict between the characters and their neighbours, it’s dealt with humour, most of the time. Also, whenever the characters switch to their native language, sometimes the subtitles go missing and that makes it hard to follow what they are talking about.
Final word :
Axone is a fun film and at the same time, a deeply political film about how people elsewhere in India tend to treat migrants from North-Eastern states. And it forces us to think about whether we are as inclusive as we think, especially when it comes to customs and food habits of people from different cultures. It’s a film which judges people who are extremely judgemental about those from a different part of the country. It’s also about food and the value it holds in people’s lives. So, when the group of friends desperately want to make Axone, knowing fully well that it’s going to raise an alarm in the building, they literally have to beg the neighbours and others, to tolerate the smell for sometime, because it’s a traditional wedding dish.
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