Nicholas Kharkongor’s film, which recently released on Netflix is creating a storm with its representation of North Easterners. The film which talks about discrimination and racism based on cultural identity has quite an interesting metaphor for it throughout the film.
The movie uses a traditional Naga dish, Axone, pronounced Akhuni, which a group of friends are trying to cook as the foundation for the sense of alienation that is reflected throughout the movie.
Akhuni gets its name from two words from the Sumi dialect, Axo-ne. Axo means ‘aroma’ or ‘smell’ and the word ne or nhe means ‘deep’ or ‘strong’. Hence making a reference to the strong smelling dish. The akhuni itself comes in powdered form and cake form.
Made with fermented soy beans, Akhuni has a bitter, smoked taste to it. It can be used with vegetables to make a stew or made with smoked pork, dried river fish or dried beef. It is also used to make chutney and pickle.
The film opens with the friends shopping for the ingredients needed – which includes spicy red peppers, the pork and the fermented paste itself wrapped in banana leaves. This popular dish works as an affective metaphor, a common household item in Nagaland which couldn’t find acceptance throughout the movie.