Media, not Covid, emerges as the primary antagonist in Vivek Agnihotri’s film ‘The Vaccine War’ – A Review.

If one were to take a sip in a drinking game each time the characters in Vivek Agnihotri’s movie “The Vaccine War” mention the term “atma nirbhar” (self-reliant), they would likely be pleasantly buzzed by the film’s conclusion after its 160-minute runtime. “The Vaccine War,” directed by Agnihotri, delves into the series of events and lockdowns that led to India developing its own COVID-19 vaccine in record time. However, it transforms into another avenue for the filmmaker to emphasize his political viewpoints. Consequently, the movie ends up serving as an unusual promotion for the Indian government.

There is no harm in highlighting the efforts of a group of Indian scientists who worked diligently to produce India’s vaccine amidst the global race to develop and distribute vaccines. The narrative of India’s medical professionals and scientists striving tirelessly to create the indigenous Covaxin vaccine is undeniably inspiring and deserving of recognition. Nonetheless, Agnihotri frequently inserts political rhetoric or propaganda about the government, its accomplishments, and its principles into the storyline. When not lauding the current government’s achievements, the film criticizes those who challenge the system.

Interestingly, in “The Vaccine War,” the media emerges as the primary antagonist. According to Agnihotri’s portrayal, the press, particularly those who question the government, pose a more significant threat in his version of India than a mutating virus. While a virus can be managed, how does one deal with individuals who raise doubts or criticisms about the system? They appear to be the central issue for Agnihotri and his characters.

In essence, “The Vaccine War” is adapted from the 2021 memoir “Going Viral: Making of Covaxin” by former Indian Council of Medical Research Director-General Balram Bhargava. The film features Nana Patekar in a leading role.

In “The Vaccine War,” Rohini seems to have one main goal – to tarnish India’s efforts to be self-reliant, or “atma nirbhar,” a term that Agnihotri emphasizes more than the vaccine itself. While Rohini and others openly criticize, the scientists, referred to as soldiers by Bhargava, fight against the virus to develop the Covaxin vaccine for India.

I felt frustrated at times in the first half, but after the interval, the story seemed to lose its focus on the vaccine. Despite the scientists finding the cure, facing WHO rejection, and eventually gaining approval, the issue of bad press overshadows their achievements. The scientists engage in lengthy discussions on addressing fake news spread by the media, while Bhargava insists on avoiding press interactions and focusing on their work.

The second half tries to evoke emotions by overdramatizing the personal struggles of the scientists at home. There’s a scene with the Director-General overlooking a cremation ground, which could be distressing for many viewers.

The climax becomes a sore point as the protagonist delves into statistics to showcase India’s progress in the vaccine race and introduces the government’s controversial theory about the oxygen crisis during the pandemic’s second wave. The sudden shift to discussing the oxygen crisis during a scientific briefing seems out of place. The climax also portrays Bhargava confronting Rohini and the press, taking on the role of a hero.

Mar 5, 2024 - Posted by filmygod - No Comments

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