The Vaccine War is triumphant saga that is also an expose

Nana Patekar plays Dr. Balram Bhargava in The Vaccine War, the story of India’s first indigenous vaccine. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

Director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri completes his trilogy of socially hard-hitting real-life exposes after The Tashkent Files and The Kashmir Files with The Vaccine War. But there are some significant differences along with the similarities.

The story of how India managed to develop a completely indigenous vaccine against the Coronavirus in record time, purely with dedication, determination and focus, is at its core a non-political saga of the triumph of Indian scientists up against a threat that requires them not to spare even a nano-second of time.

It focuses also on the largely female scientists’ team that worked relentlessly and 24/7, foregoing family life, though happily, with their families’ tacit support. It shows how an Indian woman is no less, and probably more, than the Indian man or the women from other countries—for she is doing her work with unwavering passion even as she cooks and looks after husband, kids, elders and home.

It shows the steely resolve and grit of their leader, Dr. Balram Bhargava, assisted by another determined and senior doctor, Dr. Raman Gangakhedkar (an almost unrecognizable Mohan Kapur). In the final analysis, it proves that Indians need not be subservient to or dependent on foreign ingenuity or markets in any field and that “India can do it” on its own.

And the biggest encouragement and support comes from the political leadership. It is here that the “war” against the virus becomes a battle against those anti-Indian forces, both within and outside the nation—that have vested interests. They would rather let thousands die if they can earn profits from human tragedy.

It is with this that The Vaccine War grows from being a real life bio-science medical thriller into a powerful political commentary on India’s internal enemy, led by a distinctly debauched and mercenary section of the media. That the battle is still on—in fields other than vaccines—is clear from the selective cold-shouldering of Agnihotri’s movies and similar anti stories about films that endorse a flourishing and growing India. Their target, of course, is a government that propagates by encouragement a self-reliant (Atmanirbhar) India.

The character of Rohini Singh Dhulia (Raima Sen) is modeled on a famous newsperson whose identity is crystal-clear. The names of the doctors and scientists are all real, and so are their sequences, traits and actions. The format (12 chapters in a 160 minutes run) and the absolutely fabulous background score (Rohit Sharma doing traditional music as well as using the standout Budapest Art Orchestra) enhance the narrative, magnificently blending the factual and the emotional, the personal and the professional, and without boring the viewer even for a second. In fact, in many an instance, the music elicits a terrific reaction, And the humor that lifts so many deftly-directed sequences is something I would really want to know really happened or has been added in the script.

Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s script and direction are meticulous and he is clearly on a  mission to expose good as well as bad truths about our nation and its history in these films! Nana Patekar is incredibly brilliant—and more—as Dr. Balram Bhargava, and it is superfluous to even imagine any other actor in this layered role. Girija Oak, after her nondescript role in Jawan, gets to sink her teeth into a solid character here as Dr. Nivedita Gupta. Pallavi Joshi, perfect accent and body language included, is a revelation as Dr. Priya Abraham. Nivedita Bhattacharya as Dr. Pragya Rathod is outstanding. Mohan Kapur, as Dr. Raman, has probably given his career-best performance. The real-life characters form the fantastic core of this film.

Raima Sen is well cast as the arrogant Rohini. Anupam Kher comes in off and on effectively as the Cabinet Secretary, and the rest of the supporting cast is very good as well.

If you are a true Indian at heart, unlike Rohini, this is a film not to be missed. The extra half-star is for the sheer passionate intent behind the movie—to feel pride about India, its scientists and especially its intrepid women.

Rating: ****1/2

I Am Buddha Productions’ & Abhishek Agarwal Arts’ The Vaccine War  Produced by: Pallavi Joshi & Abhishek Agarwal  Directed and written by: Vivek Agnihotri Music: Vanraj Bhatia, Rohit Sharma & Swapnil Bandodkar & Vikram Bam  Starring: Nana Patekar, Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi, Girija Oak, Mohan Kapur, Sapthami Gowda, Anchal Dwivedi, Benny Brown, Vrinda Kher, Mayukh, Arvind Paswan, Deepjyoti Das, Divya Seth Shah, Trisha Verma, Gopal Singh, Reuben Israel, Milind Gautam, Minakkshi Rajput, Arjun Dwivedi, Aarav Shukla, Kavya Goel, Asheesh Kapur, Rudra Choudhary, Nitant Trivedi, Suhita Thatte, Manas Gupta & others





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