Axone: Transcending racism with food as a metaphor

Right in the opening sequence of the movie we hear the drums roll crescendoing in the background just like the ones from ancient Manipuri Pung Cholom from North India. As our eyes anticipate a tropical view just like where the music is originated, we are instead welcomed with the harsh brick forest showing us the entirety of Delhi city. Further, the drums sound amalgamate into the other sounds of modern electric guitar and electric synths, the exact foreshadowing for what is in store for us in the movie. 

Axone – the name derived from the North Indian dish which has a pungent smell but when mixed with other ingredients the taste just ameliorates. Like many previous movies that are based on food, Axone also has food as a central theme but speaks volumes about the prevalent ill aspects of society like racism with the same food Axone as a running metaphor all along with the movie.  

(Mild Spoilers)

In the beginning, we can see Upasana, Chanbi, and Zorem quickly walking through the unknown narrow isles with their head down into a shady house making us feel that something unethical or illegal deal is going to happen. But they are here just to buy Axone which is not available outside clearly signifying the kind of misfits they and their food are in the society they live in. As they along with their other North Indian friends gather to prepare for the marriage ceremony of their friend Minam. 

There is a brief scene of Upasana and her friends trying to call their friends to find a place to cook Axone in their own individual languages with apparently no subtitles. As we try harder to decipher what they are speaking we find ourselves clueless which exactly is what director Nicholas Kharkongor was trying to portray how distinct and farther away we are from these people. Every Indian can understand a bit of Panjabi, Bengali, Tamil, or Telegu but when it comes to North India we feel so alienated and distinct from the culture and language. The movie also includes a scene inspired by the real-life incident which happened a few years back with a boy in Delhi where he was beaten to a pulp just for dyeing his hair and having a North ethnic origin and died of internal organs failure the next day. The character Bendang is a fictional representation of the same incident where he is shown traumatized in such a manner that his creativity and decision-making skills are seriously affected.   

While the protagonists go door to door asking help from everyone possible to cook Axone, with no hope they succumb to the situation and throw away the Axone. It’s when Zorem comes with an alternate idea and convinces locals Shiv and his father to help them out for the special occasion. Finally preparing the Axone becomes the triumphant feat for each and every one of them. 

The final walk where everyone is dressed in colorful dresses and a large smile on their faces with their head held high becomes the proudest moment for each one of them where they all walk gracefully and not ashamed to celebrate their culture proudly.

The dish Axone is also a metaphor that underlines people like Chanbi, Zorem coming from different northeastern cultural backgrounds trying to create their distinctive identity while trying to fit in the rather alienated suburbs. Just like Axone which is judged by its strong pungent smell, North Indian people are also constantly judged by their looks but we fail to look above it. Famous personalities like Danny Dangongpa, Sunil Chettri, Bhaichung Bhutia, Mary Kom, Arundhati Roy, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, and many more who come from North have broken the shackles of racism and have evolved themselves being the pride of their country. Everyone is an integral part of society and country and can contribute equally to the betterment of it if we remove the curtain of prejudice and racism. The movie also gives us traces of racism even inside the small community. This theme is subtly yet beautifully portrayed in the movie which makes it an endearing watch. 

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