Another scene in which a Northeastern man shouts on Delhi boy who is constantly blabbering “Get away, you f**king Indian!” It is followed by silence, and then the Delhi boy Shiv asks another man of the same community “Kya Tum log apne aap ko Indians nahi samajhte ?” which makes the aims of the movie clear and effectively conveyed.
Cast: Sayani Gupta, Lin Laisharam, Asleena Jamir, Vinay Pathak, Adil Hussain.
Director: Nicholas Kharkongor
Nicholas Kharkongor’s Axone streaming on Netflix is a delightfully charming tale with a convincing satire and a unique food-thriller.
The movie starts with three friends secretly and cautiously going to buy pork meat and ingredients of a traditional dish of Nagaland called Axone, a fermented soybean condiment, as a surprise gift for another friend who is getting married. She is an IAS aspirant and has gone outside to give an interview. All the friends need to complete decoration and cook food before she arrives. But, that’s not the only obstacle in their simple goal. The dish, Axone leaves a very bad smell and their landlord has already instructed them not to cook such food.
What really makes this movie different is its social commentary on the conditions Northeastern immigrants face in Delhi. They face discrimination every day. Comments like ” Aap sab ek hi jaise toh lagte ho.” Or ” Aapki jo aankhein itni choti choti hai, isse apko puri deewar dikhayi deti bhi hai ya nahi ?” are floating in the air whenever they are around. Having spent most of his life in Delhi Kharkongor knows exactly what his community faces every day and the movie looks like a personal letter in so many ways.
There are certain intense moments, a fight with a raunchy man, a Naga man being beaten up without any reason. Another scene in which a Northeastern man shouts on Delhi boy who is constantly blabbering “Get away, you f**king Indian!” It is followed by silence, and then the Delhi boy Shiv asks another man of the same community “Kya Tum log apne aap ko Indians nahi samajhte ?” which makes the aims of the movie clear and effectively conveyed. In a time when migrants are left stranded and you might remember incidents Northeast Indians constantly ill-treated and regarded as people from China, this makes the experience of the film more disheartening than ever.
Ax means aroma and one means strong. Clearly the ‘strong smell’ is used as a metaphor for the disgust the community faces throughout their lives in Delhi. They are treated like unwelcomed outsiders in their own motherland. The underground den-like locations to live, all the friends getting rejected to cook the dish by all their known contacts shows or the inability to stand up against the wrong things shows how the whole community is secluded and lives in a sort of fear. Even after such intense subtexts, the movie never fails to charm with its central theme, giving a bittersweet experience to cherish. Sayani Gupta plays a Nepali with a very strange accent. It appears weird but it isn’t incidental at all. Lin Laisharam as Chanbi played her role brilliantly. Adil Hussain’s role was completely wasted. The rage caused by the ill-treatment can always be felt genuinely from her performance. The music score by the underrated mastero Tajdar Junaid provides a genuine touch of tradition to the whole plot.
Overall, Axone thrives as a perfectly charming and cleverly designed social commentary film.
FINAL VERDICT – Bittersweet, charming, should definitely give a try.