Updated: August 09, 2020 20:10 IST
Rating : 2.75/5
Axone (pronounced “ah-khuni”) follows the story of six friends from Assam and Meghalaya, living in Delhi, who are trying to cook a special dish from North-East India for the marriage of one of their friends. This dish - smoked pork with fermented soya beans - smells particularly pungent, and their efforts to cook it are constantly thwarted by the (often racist) people around them. The film is directed and written by Nicholas Kharkhongor. Axone released in 2019 but was uploaded to Netflix in June 2020.
A group of friends from Assam and Meghalaya, led by Upasana (Sayani Gupta) and Chanbi (Lin Laishram) try to cook a special dish, axone, for the wedding of one of their friends, Minam. Unfortunately, Axone - fermented soybeans - smells extremely pungent and offensive to those unused to it. They initially try to cook it at home, but they are forbidden to do so by their cantankerous but formidable landlady (Dolly Ahluwalia). Further complications arise in the form of relationship problems between Upasana and her boyfriend Zorem, ethnic tensions within the Northeastern circle itself, and the psychological trauma endured by Bendang (Lanuakum Ao), who was the victim of a racist hate-crime in the past. Eventually, they manage to power through these problems and come to an ingenious and easy solution to the problem.
Most of the actors in the movie deliver excellent performances, carrying their roles lightly and naturally. Lin Laishram and Tenzin Dalha do well as Chanbi and Zorem, while Lanuakam Ao delivers a particularly powerful and restrained performance as the psychologically troubled and complex Bendang. Vinay Pathak and Dolly Ahluwalia also slip convincingly into their roles. Kharkhongor has done an excellent job of writing and filming a nuanced, powerful movie, which touches upon several sensitive subjects through a highly original premise. Sayani Gupta’s performance alone leaves much to be desired.
Axone, as mentioned before, is highly original and creative. The filmography is well-done and the script manages to get you hooked from the first shot. The film does a wonderful job of exploring the complex relationships that various Northeasterners have to each other and to the rest of the country. The music is also noteworthy, utilizing beats and songs from the Northeast to great effect. Most of the actors, most of the time, also deliver excellent performances, making this movie more than worth your time.
Occasionally, some of the actors’ performances can come across as stilted or obviously scripted. Also, certain sections of the movie can come across as being somewhat unnecessary; the same goes for certain characters, such as Shiv’s (Rohan Joshi) girlfriend, who seems to have been inserted purely for (not very funny) comedic purposes. However, Sayani Gupta’s performance sticks out like a sore thumb. Playing a Northeasterner of Nepali ethnicity, she has an unconvincing “Northeastern” accent which seems particularly bad when paired with Lin Laishram, whose character, also from the Northeast, speaks perfect, neutrally accented English. Gupta’s accent comes off as poor at best, and downright condescending and problematic at worst, taking away from an otherwise well-written and rounded character. One wonders why Kharkhongor felt compelled to cast her, and then did not reign in this obviously problematic performance.
Overall, Axone is well worth a watch. While it is certainly socially conscious, offbeat, and sensitive, it does not become boring or preachy. It entertains right to the end, with a good mix of humor and emotional content. While some viewers may be forced to confront uncomfortable truths, they are delivered well. Axone is worth your time, whether you are searching for a casual movie to go with a quarantine meal, or a sensitive film to give you food for thought.