When I began my career in this industry, I thought it would be just like any other industry where you work hard and you get your due. But I didn’t realize that my ethnicity would be a hurdle for me. And it’s been 10 yrs and a long journey and I am still trying to find my place.
Racism is a very complex issue that needs to be understood, addressed in a systematic manner before it gets out of hand. The media also has a huge role to play in this, where inclusivity and diversity can bring in more awareness. In this regard, I feel that Axone was able to strike a conversation and considering how huge the topic of racism is. Axone made an impact and I’m hoping it will open doors to many more films through which our stories can be told.
Each one of us who has moved out from our hometowns to metropolitan cities to study or to work has experienced some form of racism or the other at some point. In fact, we are taught beforehand that we will face discrimination, so we come mentally prepared but still when it hits you it’s shocking to be treated as foreigners in our own country.
Axone was a small budget film shot in peak Delhi summer. We shot in real locations to get the feel of the story and I am glad it looked authentic. As an actor, it was one of the most challenging roles I have ever done and the story was so close to my heart as I personally know so many people who have been in these situations. After playing the stereotypical Japanese Geisha and that northeastern Hi 5 friend with zero dialogues, playing a pivotal role in Rangoon, and then getting a central character in Axone, is a big step in the journey of trying to breakthrough.
Personally, I felt Axone would have a limited audience and would have been strictly a festival film. But we were lucky to have it released last year on an OTT platform where we got a wider range of audience, as there have not been many films based on NE and our people. It was heartening to see the acceptance and appreciation of our film and our struggle, which is completely different from the usual struggle that the rest of the Indians go through in our own country. My social media was flooded with beautiful messages from across India and the world. People simply wrote apologies saying they are sorry that they have been part of casual racism. It was heartening to see this conversation started. Also seeing a non-north eastern audience connect to it was overwhelming and reaffirming.