Warning: Spoilers Ahead
While watching Axone, you feel the similar kind of suspense you feel while watching any gangster film except there’s these pretty harmless humans trying to prepare a dish for their friend’s wedding.
I can’t imagine someone frowning upon my food choices. Imagine preparing Chholey Bhature hiding from everyone, in a basement. Unless you want to have it all alone! For Upasana and Chanbi, making Axone is adventurous, but not fun.
Produced by Saregama’s Yoodlee Films, Axone is clearly the first ever ‘Bollywood’ film to actually shed light on the issues – from smallest to the biggest – faced by the North East Indian population living in the metropolitan cities like Delhi.
Directed by Nicholas Kharkongor, Axone is able to deliver the anxiety of every person from the North East to the hearts of the rest of Indian viewers extremely well. It keeps you hooked, makes you laugh at the twists and turns, urges you to introspect, and empathise. It’s most importantly, not biased – Axone makes you admit that it all exists and never goes over the top.
Parasher Baruah’s cinematography lets you enter the world of Humayunpur quite intricately. Tajdar Junaid’s authentic background score plays a big role in creating the suspense. It helps the viewers stick to their seats right from the beginning.
The film stars some of the most celebrated actors of Indian Cinema but in my opinion, they don’t steal the show here. It’s a collective effort by every actor’s performance that makes Axone so special.
Dolly Ahluwalia, who was breathtaking with her performance in Vicky Donor as a mid-aged Delhi woman, failed to create the same impact as ‘Mata Ji’, an old landlady who doesn’t approve of her tenants’ activities. She is loud throughout, but sometimes a little over the top. However, her care for her daughter is visible. Every time she mentions her daughter, it strengthens her presence. Even though she doesn’t appear in the film for even once but her presence is felt all the time.
Vinay Pathak doesn’t have much to do in the film, yet is important to the story.
A small cameo of Adil Hussain is as significant as the actor’s existence. Hussain plays the onlooker, a perfect representation of the North Indian population and it’s unnecessary invasiveness in the lives of the North Eastern population staying in Delhi. The suspiciousness always frames the North Indians as victims of the terrible lifestyles of different cultural practices around them.
Lin Laishram weaves the entire film together and holds it tight till the end. She portrays the worried, anxious, confused but dedicated and optimistic Chanbi who puts feelings over anything else around her. She is full of emotions throughout, however it doesn’t get overwhelming for us. We are able to feel her anxiety. She plays Chanbi with utmost innocence with absolute no hint of adulteration.
Sayani Gupta is convincing as Upasana. She is passionate, claims to be practical and is full of spontaneity. Her character is multi dimensional and has sub layers. Sayani is able to deal with each layer with ease. What makes Upasana so likeable is also her relationship with Zorem played by Tenzin Dalha, last seen in Guilty – another Netlfix film. Dalha successfully draws our attention to multiple issues, sometimes not just racial.
Lanuakum Ao plays Bendang and convinces you that he’s given up on the idea of acceptance by the society. He’s intense but exceptionally talented and one is constantly made to feel that Bendang deserves better.
A comeback to a casual racist remark by Merenla Imsong’s character has been my takeaway from the film. Her statement is funny, yet something extremely familial to the culture of looking down upon the North Eastern youth.
The film has some really heavy moments that mirror the reality of our society, yet it has moments when it makes you laugh so much that you’re able to move forward to the next scene.
Shiv played by Rohan Joshi plays a major role in serving those funny moments. His internalised bias and yet a need to explore and learn makes him innocent and loveable. It makes sense for Shiv to be this funny in a film about the struggles of North Eastern Indians.Only North Indians can be this carefree and funny in the given situation.
The rest of supporting cast including Millo Sunka, Asenla Jamir, Akash Bhardwaj is absoultely fun to watch wanting you to see more of their stories as well.
The film at some point feels extremely slow paced, while it never tends to lose the plot. For a film which sticks to the plot while providing justice to it’s sub-plots to some extent, pacing is an issue which could be a turn-off. Axone may not be the best film, but surely an important one. What’s important about this film is, it talks about how all these characters feel about their personal matters, their ambitions, their dreams – small and big, and how the racism practiced against them tends to crush all of that bit by bit.
With the rise of Coronavirus in India, we’ve seen a rise in violence against the North-Eastern community validating the taboo. The film becomes even more significant at this point and surely becomes the need of the hour. In one scene, Bendang calls Shiv, “a fucking Indian”, which leaves Shiv wondering if his friends don’t consider themselves as Indians. If only Shiv could realise it’s mainly because of the bias that even he carries inside him.
Through Axone, it becomes very clear that ‘mild racism’ is beyond humiliation, it is capable of destroying a person’s mental health to a great extent, and sometimes, even the mere will to exist.
Axone is now streaming on Netflix.