Film Review: Axone

Nicholas Kharkongor’s Axone mixes a comedy romp with social issues. The film works best when it focuses on the more serious aspects.

Preparing to throw a wedding party for their friend, Upasna and Chanbi want to cook axone, a pork stew with an overpowering smell. However, things do not go according to plan, with an angry landlady, and complaining neighbours…

Writer-director Nicholas Kharkongor’s sophomore feature focuses on a group of northeastern migrants in Delhi attempting to organise a wedding party at short notice. The most striking aspect of Axone is that it depicts the multiethnic side of India, a side we don’t often see. 

The film works more as a drama than as a comedy. There are some decent laughs though, such as Shiv’s run ins with his girlfriend. However, Axone’s strength is its representation of more serious issues. The discrimination that Chanbi and her friends face for being a different ethnicity is stark and uncomfortable. Kharkongor is careful not to paint everyone with the same brush, while at the same time conveying the very real racism faced by minorities from the same country. 

The finale of Axone exhibits the issues faced by the community, but also by those who wish to make friends across these boundaries. It is the final third that reveals how different members of the Nagaland migrant group depicted in the film see themselves. It is a shame that this is not brought to the fore earlier in proceedings.

Pacing in the film is a little off. It takes a little while to establish what exactly is happening, before the narrative becomes clear. Some of the choices made by Kharkongor are a little odd. The use of slow motion, for example, doesn’t really work. Performances by Sayani Gupta and Lin Laishram are decent. Some of the supporting cast are a little stilted or overblown. 

Axone is an uneven film, but it does have its merit. The film ends on a sweet note. 

Axone is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.