Thursday, June 11, 2020

Axone - More than just a film

Finally the film is releasing! I have been getting queries from my friends and friends' friends asking about “ How and Where to see this film” since last one year. Why me? Because I am “related” to someone very closely associated with the film. But hang on everyone, this is not a good / bad / paid review. I am writing how I felt watching AXONE . That’s it.

For those who don’t know, Axone or Akhuni is a dish from the North Eastern part of India. Various states among the 8 sisters use Axone in their cuisine in different forms and of course different names.
The official poster

Axone is fermented soya beans and because of the high protein content in these beans, in their
fermented stage, they smell like putrefaction. Well to many! The “stench” is such that when Delhi Police had a directive - “ Security tips for North east students / visitors in Delhi” in 2007- it mentioned Axone alongside bamboo shoots as a food item to be AVOIDED.

That “Directive” had many do’s and don’ts for people from North east in Delhi. After spending a couple of years in Delhi from 2004-2006, I was already back in Assam in 2007. If you ask me, if I had faced any issues because of the way I look or what I cook; no I didn’t. But while house hunting, I have seen people looking more curiously towards my younger sister whose Mongoloid features were more prominent than me. We managed to find a place / one room with an attached bathroom in Safdarjung Enclave, South Delhi. When we were leaving that place, me to move back to Assam and sister to a shared apartment with other girls, our landlady said “ How do we find people like you now!”
Sayani Gupta and Tenzin Dalha in a scene from Axone

Axone  is a small quirky lighthearted take on some bigger issues. A group of friends
want to cook Axone pork for their friend who is getting married that day. How they manage to do that, hiding its overpowering smell and hiding / facing / moving on with the stench of soft racial discrimination all around. The place where this story is based, is not very far from where we used to live. Of course in 2004, the place was “little” different than what it has evolved to be now.

Written and directed by Nicholas Kharkongor and Produced by Yoodlee Films, Axone offers many moments which anyone from North East staying outside the 8 sisters can identify with. That is why when the trailer was released a year ago, people lapped it up. You go to the Axone trailer on Youtube and read the comments and you will understand what I am talking about. This has become an emotion for many from North East India, staying in various parts of India and the World.

Lanuakam Ao / Bendang in Axone
It  is very human to be doubtful / wary of things unknown or something you are not familiar with. Don't we all have our doubts when stepping out of our comfort zones? Likewise in the film, people from the “mainland” are wary of these bunch who look different, speak alien languages and eat very very different stuff. For Example; in one scene a “local” guy casually passes an offensive remark to Chaanbi or when another character states “ How can I tell you apart, you all look the same!”. All these because the so called “ others” look different. That has led to some walls. It is not one sided though. In the film , when Bendang tries, fails and says “ I don’t sing Hindi songs” , he builds up a wall too. We from Northeast are as much a part of this country as anyone from any other part. What is the harm in learning and singing a Hindi or even a Punjabi song? The walls need to be broken from both sides. I firmly believe that. His story has hints of a rather infamous incident of violent racial attack on someone from North East. Sadly the person lost his life. Bendang here gets a second chance.

The film has some characters which are very stereotypical. I felt all the characters from the landlady's family were such. But they exist and Shiv aka Hyper steals the show with his "over enthusiasm". For every slur you receive, you wish you have a friend like Hyper who sticks with you without judging you.

Racial discrimination is an issue the world is battling with. As someone from Northeast India, I am not being biased to people from our part of the country. But in my 2 years in Delhi, I never disliked it. I still love visiting Delhi. Now living in Mumbai I have turned into a true blue Mumbaikar running in and out of local trains 5 days a week. ( That’s a validation my Bambaiyya dost log have given). Why Axone worked for me is because it tries to show both sides; though subtly, but it does and that’s the reason I root for this film.

Axone is releasing on Netflix on 12th June 2020. Go watch it and share your thoughts. I bet you have never seen this part of Delhi in any other Hindi film :)

Poster credits : Yoodlee films and Parasher Baruah.