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AXONE - An important eye-opener film on racial discrimination within the country, that entertains, hurts and makes a serious impact all together. (Review by Bobby Sing) (Movies To See Before You Die - Drama)

20 Jun, 2020 | Movies To See Before You Die / Movie Reviews / Drama / 2020 Releases

In the early 90s, while studying in Delhi University (North Campus), I actually came to know about and personally experienced the racism practiced with the students coming from the North Eastern regions of the country. And the bitter truth is that they themselves very well knew it and always tried to ignore the names called by the locals and even by the students studying in the same campus. I kept thinking about that in the later years too at various occasions, till I had friends from the North East studying along in my post graduate courses providing me a better and deeper insight of their individual plights.
The subject has often been portrayed as a sub-plot in quite a few films in the past, but there frankly wasn’t any dedicated film presenting the theme and that too featuring most of the actors from the North East giving it an authentic feel. So giving its deserving due in the beginning itself, AXONE is a first of its kind, important eye-opener film that solely focuses on all North Eastern characters residing in Delhi and the racial discrimination faced by them coming from their own countrymen.

As a light-hearted yet thought provoking satire, it revolves around incidents in a day when a group of friends (from the North East) are preparing for a small celebration of an online wedding in the evening. They need to cook a surprise dish for their friend getting married and it’s all about how they somehow manage to do it, despite its unusually peculiar smell annoying many in the neighborhood. 

Using a smart mix of Punjabi, Haryanvi and other Hindi/Punjabi speaking characters interacting with the (North Eastern) group of friends, AXONE is an entertaining as well as a disturbing film that reveals how racial discrimination shamefully exists within the country itself. Wrongly treated as ‘the others’, the people from the Northeast have always faced this misplaced treatment since long and the film specifically talks about the issue without going into any heavy or preachy mode (which might be a subject of criticism too for a few).

Beautifully presenting the interaction, attires, language, traditional customs and specifically food of our North Eastern regions, AXONE (pronounced as AKHUNI) keeps progressing at a calm pace and never drags or brings in any unnecessary sub-plots. Depicting the daily life in Delhi, it perfectly captures the basic essence of the narrow lanes in areas like Munirka through its on-location shoot and Delhites will certainly relate to the middle class feel in its various well-directed sequences. The camera along with a superfine background score and art-direction add a lot to the onscreen proceedings and the mix of various languages in its dialogues (representing the cultural diversity seen in metro cities) turns out to be clear winner. 

Interestingly, the film taking about racism, practices a subtle racism in its characterization of supporting characters itself (may be unintentionally) when it presents the Punjabis in the same typically clichéd manner as seen in several other Hindi films like VICKY DONOR and more (with Dolly Ahluwalia playing a somewhat similar role). 
But then, in complete contrast is the group of fresh faces mostly coming from the North East who all remain so natural in their acts that you never feel they are actually acting in a film project. The two girls standing out among them all are Sayani Gupta and Lin Laishram, with Sayani unarguably deserving a special mention for perfectly enacting the character with an amazing noteworthy accent and the tone as required. In fact once she establishes her character, you keep searching for her in every next scene too, willing to see more of her and her immensely likable mannerisms.

In the supporting cast we have Dolly Ahluwalia, Vinay Pathak, Rohan Joshi and Adil Hussain playing their small roles, but it was really surprising to see Adil remaining cruelly underutilized giving a silent appearance. Can’t say why he was brought in just for giving some looks sitting silently in only a few scenes. Here though the actors representing the Delhi locals play their part extremely well, they actually also point towards a harsh truth, that how racism and various terms used for the North Eastern citizens are so casually used in the daily lingo of the city, and how it has become a part of people’s mutual conversations and they don’t even realize or consider it as a serious mistake. 

There is a touching tragedy too in AXONE, depicted through the character of Bendang, who cannot forget the trauma of getting beaten by the locals in the market. It strongly reminds you of the real life case of 2014, when a young student of Arunanchal Pradesh was killed by the mob in the South Delhi market, just because of his physical appearance. Similarly a girl from the group in the film, also gets slapped by a local boy so casually, as if he could do anything with her just because of her looks and origin. These related tragedies get soulfully presented along a Hindi film song saying “Utthe Sab Ke Kadam Tara Rum Pum Pum, Aji Aisey Geet Gaya Karo"

But that is not all, as one particular scene of the film truly makes you feel the shame and that shame is ought to be felt by both the sides to be honest, equally sharing the fault. In this important, insightful scene, the Northeastern man pushes the Delhi boy teasing him unnecessarily and says “Get Away you Indian”!

Hearing that the Delhi boy stops for a few seconds and replies “Why? Don’t you consider yourselves as Indians?”……………..

Directed by Nicholas Kharkongor, AXONE does have its flaws and also questionable insertions contradicting its own message. But it still deserves to be considered as an important, unique film as it entertains as well as enlightens about the racism practiced by each one of us at some point of time in life (may be ignorantly). To be straight, isn’t it the same racism when we treat people from Bihar, Assam or South India in a different manner calling them by typical names as “Bhaiya” and more? Plus, apart from such widely present regional racism, there is religious racism too all over the world, about which I don’t need to say anything in details as you very well know about it.

Thankfully AXONE makes us think about it yet again in a distinctive entertaining manner, keeping the emotions intact. And that is the reason why I would like to include the film in my must watch movies list reminding us of our evident faults.

So do watch it at the earliest and think for a while about its theme....... if possible!

Rating : 4 / 5 (Included in MOVIES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE List at BTC for its important merits)

(Note: At the time of writing the article, the film could be seen at Netflix for a subscription.) 

Tags : AXONE Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Hindi films on Racial Discrimination in India, Unique Film, Racism in Indian Cinema, Films of Racism in India.
20 Jun 2020 / Comment ( 0 )
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