Netflix’s Axone - Belongingness, Cultural Chaos & Everything in Between.

Updated: Jul 14

Mulling and Musing Movies is a series by Sayasha Pillai where she talks about when movies do what they are meant to do- entertaining us while pushing us to think.


Best believe I start with a disclaimer, especially for those of you who haven’t read the Part 1 to this series – THIS IS NOT A MOVIE REVIEW.


Picking up from where we left off, after the movie Kaamyaab by Hardik Mehta, I watched a bunch of really good narratives and while I was eager to write about them, I found that it wasn’t coming as naturally to me as it did the first time around. And any writer will tell you, words are all we have. So the least we can do is be unabashedly ourselves while we’re at it. I almost started a piece about this other film, but somewhere along – it didn’t write itself. It felt like I was forcing my thoughts onto paper and that’s just not what I want to do – definitely not, for pieces such as these.


And then I watched Axone on Netflix by Nicholas Kharkongar


The storyline, in a sentence, is fairly simple – A group of friends from Northeast India find themselves in a soup, as they try their best to jugaad ways and whip up this pungent delicacy – Axone, where the word itself means ‘strong smell’. Though, it’s so much more than that.


I loved how at ease, via a day in the life of a group of friends, Nicholas brings to the fore the prevalent prejudices and biases the community faces.


The music by Papon and Tajdar Junaid, adds this unique flavour to the scenes and compliments the narrative, which is packed with some really good performances, perfectly. While I wish we had a chance to see a little more of Adil Hussain and Vinay Pathak, I particularly loved Tenzing Dalha and Lanuakum Ao’s work. Merenla Imsong and Lin Laishram were very good and of course, we have the stunning Sayani Gupta who was extremely convincing. I also really liked the relationship dynamics between the group of friends and how nonchalantly the paying guest culture of Delhi, so to speak, was brought to light.


If I were to describe what this film is in just one word, it would be – belongingness.

How often do we feel out of place? How often are we treated like we aren’t meant to be where we’re at, no matter how at home we’ve convinced ourselves we feel?

If you pause, actually think about it and you indeed believe that you’re meant to be where you’re at, then you’re bloody lucky, to say the least! Cause there, sure as hell, are a lot of us out here who feel (or have felt) otherwise. Now, imagine you’ve made peace and reached a sort of equilibrium internally but are constantly tried by ruthless external catalysts. How would that be?


There’s an unassumingly hard-hitting dialogue that captures in a nutshell, the most apparent issue people from the community deal with on an every-day basis; one of the many.

Between an off-putting neighbour and Merenla Imsong’s character where she retaliates to his unnecessarily vile remark – “Agar hum sab ki shakal ek hi jaisi hotya hai, toh tereko kaisa patta har bar dusra banda aata hai re idar?”, shutting him up.


This film was quite an eye-opener for me because what we don’t realise is that while we might actually mean no real harm, our ignorance stems from a larger issue – rooted deep in our psyche and for generations now; that’s been tormenting the community. It’s 2020, shouldn’t we all be an incy bit more sensitive to another’s origins, if not, way of life?


You know it makes me wonder, in the end of the day, doesn’t everything boil down to –‘Us and Them?’. Always the fear of being ‘the other’. In a more millennial way – FOMO, which while literally translated is ‘Fear of Missing Out’ but the larger context of course, is the paranoia of being excluded.


It’s noted that if one feels like they belong to a particular group or a cause larger than themselves, their mental state, output and everything else is at its optimum. However, alienation can bring one down to unfathomable lows.

Despite countless tries to fit in, we discriminate away, until one breaks; and then just as they’re accustoming and piecing themselves together so as to grow and stay afloat, we point fingers probing – “but shouldn’t you consider yourself to be a part of us anyway?”

Without giving too much away, in case some of you haven’t had the chance to catch the movie yet, there’s another scene in the film that I absolutely loved (it’s probably one of my favourites); where subtly the variety in the diaspora of North East India, that we often neglect, is shown.

I mean, I found myself drawing parallels to how not everyone from South India is “Madrasi”. I’m a Malayali (aka Mallu) who’s probably visited Kerala a total of 7..8..okay, maybe 12 times in her entire life but that doesn’t make me any less Keralite.


Growing up, a southerner, in Mumbai, I didn’t feel the pinch - until I went to college, 2 hours away to Pune. And amidst people from across the country, I remember being “too mallu” for my North Indian friends and “not mallu enough” for my pure bred South Indian friends.

(P.S., – when I say ‘pure bred’ I mean born and brought up in South India, in this case Kerala. It’s more geographical because genetically speaking, I’m pure bred too. Not that either matter in any form, whatsoever, anyway.)


I remember my Malayali friends and relatives would find me not having a proper accent troubling but when I’d say certain things that are often overtly associated with being a Malayali, my north Indian friends would have a field day. But then again, all this is just my experiences as a privileged 25-year-old, who luckily hasn’t had to face any REAL discrimination in any form or way. And still somewhere, it annoys, if not pricks. That makes me scared, unable to even imagine just how terrible the constant discrimination and the resulting identity confusion might be like.

It’s human nature to segregate and categorise, it comes inherently to us. And that’s why we feel the need to label and thereby, identify – hence we all have names too, right? Do you see any other specie doing so? (Actually, they probably are and we’ll never know; but until proven otherwise, this analogy is good to go.)


So while it’s sure to be an up-hill climb, we’ve got to start somewhere. Perhaps, we could begin with the words we pick and choose and the stereotypes we assume to be true? Just because we’ve been conditioned to believe something, needn’t mean it’s accurate.

Antisthenes once said, “The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue.” – let this sink in.


As you immerse yourself in this charming 1 hour 40 minutes long film, dig deeper and you will find that it’s actually questioning a lot more than meets the eye.


I could go on and on but what good would that do? You can just Google your way to long and exhaustively etched monologues


You can watch this film on Netflix and reach out to me on Instagram Sayasha Pillai or write to me at writetosayasha@gmail.com


I look forward to hearing from you!

The above piece is written by Sayasha Pillai who is a guest blogger to the site and also part of the book UNREAD 2020


To know what to watch next or what to read next in quarantine, head to this Giant Quarantine Recommendation List by PFA Community.


For any questions related to the blog, reach out to Pawan Rochwani on hello@pfaindia.com


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