An ingredient in Naga cuisine (fermented soybean) called ‘Akhuni’ is the centre of the film Axone. The director of the movie, Nicholas Kharkongar, is from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. In an interview, he described his love and loyalty towards the cultures, the traditions, and the people of North-East India. He loves the North-East, and the food, mostly the pork.
The cast of the movie is from different parts of the region, as the film shows the story of how generally the North-East migrant lives in Delhi. The film highlights some challenges they face, from racism to abuse.
The movie circles around Akhuni. It starts friends of Minam buying smoked pork and Akhuni after she’d gone for an IAS interview and was getting married on the same day. The film depicts a very stressful day for these friends who find it very challenging to cook smoked pork with Akhuni, which has a strong unpleasant smell which is disliked very much by the neighbours and their landlords.
They knew it would be challenging to cook the dish, so, they took the help of the landlady’s son, Shiv. to manipulate his father and grandmother. As they start preparing the pork, it fails miserably due to the uncooperative gas cylinder and electricity. In the end, they ended up cooking on the building terrace, making Minam’s wedding day very special by cooking her favourite traditional dish.
There are some issues that the film brings out for the world to see.
Being abused is one of them. When Bendang and Chanbi go to buy groceries, some of the locals, in an abusive and provocative way, pass comment on Chanbi. While trying to confront them she is physically abused. Her boyfriend isn’t able to protect her as, in a previous incident, he was also subject to this because if his hair colour, and is traumatised.
Many North-Eastern men and women have been physically and verbally taken advantage of, many-a-times to a point where they are being raped or murdered. Most of the abuse comes from a racist perspective, because their appearance and their lifestyle are very different from the locals.
The movie also shows the issues they have with their landlady about the coming of their friends and outsiders to their homes. The ‘locals’ are prejudiced against the group of friends most of the time. In the movie, the landlady and the locals comment negatively about their lifestyle, clothing, and the food they eat. They were warned several times by their landlord to not allowed to cook their traditional food. This movie shows what the locals in cities think of the food and culture of the North-Eastern people and how it is undervalued.
The question and identities of ‘Us and them’ is very powerfully shown in the movie.
The people from the North-East feel that they are excluded, and also how they exclude themselves from the ‘Indianness’. Some dialogues in the film bring out the togetherness within the North-Eastern people in the city as a ‘family’. The film shows how these group of friends stick together and were sensitive to their friends’ needs and feelings.
In the movie, Chanbi also advised her boyfriend to be friends with the local people, other than the people from the North-East. Chanbi told him that everyone is not the same. The movie tries to convey the message that all the locals are not the same even though they do face problems with some of them. They continually took help from Shiv and tried to be good friends with him as well.
Since the director is from the North-East, he has made the environment and the background very pure and realistic. Watching the movie made me recall some of my own experiences in Delhi. It made me realise that it is a reality no one can deny and that I am not alone.
Even though it is a Bollywood movie in the comedy and drama genre, he has made it more like a documentary and has captured the lives of this group perfectly.
The movie has perfectly captured the issue of racism in Delhi. It was built from the perspective of the North-Eastern people.
Academician like MacDuie-Ra, Babu P. Remesh, Dolly Kikon, and others, have written so many essays on these issues. It is one of the first movies to refer to and stream for, those who want to understand or look into the lives and experiences of the North-East migrant living in other cities across India.