Cookout of biting commentary

Axone which is streaming on Netflix takes on issues of racism faced by North-easterners in Delhi’s Humayunpur area

By   |  Published: 24th Jun 2020  12:55 amUpdated: 23rd Jun 2020  8:41 pm

Chaos ensues when a bunch of friends from different parts of the North-East decide to make the dish Axone (pronounced Akhuni) for the wedding for their friend Minam. The movie directed by Nicholas Kharkongor starts out innocuously enough about their mad dash to cook the pungent smelling dish without upsetting their neighbours, but later becomes a commentary on the different issues that North-Easterners tackle in Delhi owing to their Mongoloid features.

The two girls Chanbi (Lin Laishram), Upasana (Sayani Gupta) and her boyfriend Zorem (Tenzin Dalha) source 3 kgs of pork and the strong smelling fermented soybean paste to make Axone which brings warm memories for them, but is gag-inducing for others. As they wait for their neighbours to go out of their apartments to start preparing the dish without offending their olfactory senses, they run out of gas. Adding to their woes is their Punjabi landlady played by Dolly Ahluwalia who forbids them to have the party at her home and cook the said dish.

Through it all, the film lightly tackles the everyday struggles of those from the North-east part of the State, like racism, slut-shaming and their own ghettoism in the Humayunpur area of Delhi.

One particular scene really brings it to the fore when Chanbi alongwith her boyfriend Bendang is buying vegetables from a pushcart. When two boys pass vulgar comments on Chanbi, Bendang refuses to come to her aid, instead cowering in fear when the two boys slap Chanbi when she calls them out over their comments. Director Nicholas Kharkongor doesn’t preach, instead he gets the point across through the metaphor of dish. Axone becomes a metaphor for the many difficulties the friends face just to celebrate a simple thing like a friend’s wedding. Feelings of being an outsider, facing violence due to their different features and asking permission to cook in their own home all get heightened in this social commentary which presents both sides of the story.

When the traumatised Bendang who was beaten up just because he coloured his hair blonde as an upcoming musician tells Chanbi that he stayed in Delhi only because of her; she tells him it’s not that everyone there is bad, but it’s also because Bendang refused to make friends outside of their community.

Sayani’s Upasna desperately tries to fit in with her circle of friends despite their subtle bias towards her as she is a Nepali. The cast picked from different parts of the seven States play their characters well without any inhibition and bring realism to the scenes. The uniqueness of the States is also elevated by the film’s music which is a combination of folk songs from Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim. Axone as a film does its part in shining a light on issues facing this particular community whose different cultures are still shrouded in a mystery.

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