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Review by Alexandra

(London Film Festival)

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‘Axone’ is a beautiful tale of camaraderie in the face of adversities, love and fight for true values. It depicts close friends Chanbi (Lin Laishram) and Upsana (Sayani Gupta) as they try their best to organise their friend’s wedding, including cooking their traditional wedding dish which contains axone, a pungent herb whose smell annoys the neighbours.

Migrants from the North-East of India, the girls moved to New Delhi together with other friends and are maintaining a close group, supporting each other like family. The film is humorous, sometimes dark, and it subtly brings to attention matters such as racism, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. Uprooted, some of the friends find it difficult to mingle with the local population, which doesn’t always tolerate them.

Asked about how he came up with the idea, director Nicholas Kharkongor said that for the audience it might seem like a unique story, but for the people from the North-East of India it is a very common occurrence when they move to the big city- he jokes about food that gives off “mal odours”. According to the director, the shooting locations were real, as he wanted to depict the different influences and cultures mingling in New Delhi.

Speaking of choosing the cast, Kharkongor said he wanted to showcase North-Eastern actor in the film, as it is often hard for them to find themselves in Indian films. Lin Laishram adds that it is very typical for them to be typecast in films (she gives the example of North-Eastern women being cast as spa girls) and that when Kharkongor came to her with the script, two years ago, she felt that it was a serious project that touched her heart. She jokes that she wanted “to be part of this sentimental film even when shooting in New Delhi at 40°C: “we all took it with love, it was very sentimental with this film. I hope it opens a lot of doors to actors and it is important for Bollywood to be inclusive. We are here today from the North-East to make some noise.”

You can tell the chemistry between Kharkongor and Laishram and the pathos with which both speak about ‘Axone’. It does indeed look like a project in which people poured their passion and talent. A humourous tale that is anything but light.

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