"The Vaccine War" sheds light on the power of science in fighting a battle, emphasizing that it's not just a biological war but an information war. The film underscores India's capability to overcome challenges.
Based on Prof. Balram Bhargava's book "Going Viral" and directed by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, the movie celebrates the relentless efforts of unsung heroes, frontline workers, and dedicated scientists who worked tirelessly to develop India's indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin.
The film offers glimpses into the lives of scientists, with some scenes reminiscent of "Mission Mangal." It also addresses allegations against the government and its use of the media as a scapegoat, albeit with a subtle preachy undertone.
A significant portion of the film delves into the intricate process of creating Covaxin in collaboration with Bharat Biotech, ICMR, and the National Institute of Virology (NIV). Agnihotri skillfully captures the human emotions within the scientific journey—excitement during breakthroughs, frustration with delayed results, anger from senior pressures, and empathy for exhausted scientists enduring sleepless nights. These moments blend science with human drama, although the extensive scientific terminology in the first half can be overwhelming. However, the narrative becomes more accessible as it progresses to coronavirus isolation and vaccine development.
The film is bolstered by authentic characters that resonate with reality. Agnihotri portrays the challenges faced by scientists in both their professional and personal lives effectively. The storytelling remains straightforward, with impactful dialogues. Nana Patekar as Dr. Balram Bhargava and Pallavi Joshi as Dr. Priya Abraham, Director-NIV, deliver exceptional performances, conveying a spectrum of emotions.
From Patekar's nuanced body language to Joshi's compelling dialogue delivery, their acts impressively capture pain, joy, angst, and pride. Girija Oak Godbole as Dr. Nivedita Gupta, ICMR, portrays her character as a dedicated soldier. Nivedita Bhattacharya as Dr. Pragya, NIV, convincingly navigates the challenges of work-life balance. Raima Sen as journalist Rohini Singh Dhulia commands the screen with a powerful presence, skillfully highlighting her character's complex shades.
With a runtime of 2 hours and 40 minutes, the film feels slightly lengthy for its narrative. The first half, especially during the phase involving ICMR and NIV, appears slow. However, the second half picks up the pace. While the film primarily presents a one-sided view, blaming the media for a negative vaccine narrative, it also serves as a sharp commentary on systemic flaws.
"The Vaccine War" delves into conspiracy theories that emerged during the pandemic, exploring the origins of the coronavirus and potential lab leaks. It questions the existence of pharma lobbies that prioritize foreign vaccines over indigenous ones and focus on media trials that can distort the truth. Raima Sen's character openly criticizes Indian journalists who hindered India's vaccine efforts, portraying the media as malicious and self-serving.
The press conference sequence and subsequent speeches by Nana Patekar and Pallavi Joshi's characters create a powerful climax. However, some of Agnihotri's arguments lack concrete evidence, indicating creative liberty.
"The Vaccine War" is a must-watch for its intention to spotlight the hardships, efforts, and struggles of the medical and scientific communities during the pandemic. It may be emotionally challenging for those who have lost loved ones Due To virus, but it emphasizes the significance of timely vaccine development. Approach the film with an open mind, acknowledging its one-sided portrayal of government actions and media involvement.