Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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To the Cast and Crew of “Axone”: You are Confusing Victim and Perpetrator in Racism Against NE

From the trailer of this movie, I came to comprehend that it’s a film made in attempt to integrate the rest of India with the North-east and to initiate a discourse between the two vastly different regions on racism by holding a mirror to the rotten society that we currently live in through means of mainstream entertainment. But on watching the movie, it feels as though you held the mirror towards us Northeasterners to give us a glimpse of our own miseries, instead of directing it towards the genuine perpetrators of racism in mainland Indian metropolitan cities. It felt as though in a desperate endeavour to bridge the gap between the mainland and us, the narrative demands us to be complacent observers of our own inadequacies as opposed to tackling the main drivers of racism i.e. mainland supremacist ideologies added with gallons of ignorance. Now bear in mind that this is not a review of the movie nor a synopsis but a simple, straightforward, commentary by a fellow Northeastern girl who after watching your film, for the first time in my life needed a moment to think if I was the problem when confronted with racism during my 22 years of living in India before I took off.

It is 8:40 am in Sydney right now and I haven’t been able to sleep since last night pondering over the same self-deprecatory thought that your movie tries to instil among us when faced with racism. But just like the movie that is apologetical in its entirety, I apologise to state that I haven’t found a single nerve in my body to accept the notion of “reverse racism” that your film tries to throw on us. By portraying Bendang’s lived experience of racism in an oddly exact reference to Nido Tania’s incident and Chanbi’s vilifying of Bendang’s character for choosing to remain in his Northeastern cocoon and not integrating with the Delhiites, while slyly sliding in the message “Not all Indians are racist” would be a masterstroke except that Nido Tania lost his life to this “racist” incident. He did not get a chance at life to play a Hindi song with his guitar to prove his “Indianness” or to apologise to his murderers because he got rattled over their insults directed towards his blond hair. If this is what you mean by “representation” then I’m sorry to say that you are negating the harrowing lived experiences of thousands of Northeasterns residing in mainland metropolitan cities. And if integration was your motive then it need not happen at the cost of us “fixing ourselves to fit them” but rather coming together as two equal entities from an equal platform ready to discuss and shape ourselves into a society that is devoid of racism.

I wish to shed more light on many small instances from the movie such as the needless attempt to speak in an overly exaggerated Nepali accent by the actor who played the respective role; meaninglessly dragging poor Jesus into a narration pointing towards an indication which we are well aware of; and comparing the smell of Axone to a septic tank. But that’ll take up a lot more words which I’m sure you’ll not take the time to read, given the lacklustre effort seen in your reading, researching and portraying of racism clearly evident throughout the movie.

Lastly, why did no one show any act of defiance when the landlord’s son shamelessly displays his fetish over Northeastern girls? How did he become the victim in the end? Also, what’s with the question, “Don’t you guys consider yourselves as Indians”? Like Zorem who chooses to stay silent over this question, we shall also address this in our own due time. But my problem here is, “Why weren’t the perpetrators of racism asked this question instead”?

P.S. – I have seen a lot of defenders and apologists of the movie coming forward to say that a film should not be given that much of a social responsibility in terms of discussing race but if a film decides to make a social commentary on racism, then it’s narrative shouldn’t only be judged by its entertainment value but also the message it tries to convey.

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