The Vaccine War
Directed by Vivek Agnihotri
Apart from Raima Sen’s over-the-top villain’s act as a journalist who has sold out to the American cause, the characters in The Vaccine War are tenable and almost uniformly restrained and believable.
Unlike the last time when many of Vivek Agnihtori’s critics felt he went overboard in demonizing Kashmir’s anti-Pandit drive, this time Agnihotri makes the arching endeavour to show the birth of India’s first Covid vaccine as a celebration of women’s empowerment.
Admittedly the women , excluding Raima Sen in her vamping avatar, are gracefully portrayed. Pallavi Joshi and Girija Oak are reasonably effective as scientists toiling at the Indian Council of Medical Research to bring out an Indian vaccine in a run against time that became headlined in a section of the press as a battle between over-ambition and efficacy.
Portions of the storytelling are admirably constructed, bringing out the stress of those times when the Pandemic threatened to snuff out countless lives while showing the scientists in conditions of abject despair and some humour.Udaysingh Mohite’s camerawork is firstrate. He shoots the film in whites and pale blues giving a naturally clinical colours.
Nana Patekar playing the main character of Dr Balram Bhargava comes across as a gruff often insensitive man who could do with some serious gender tutoring. I lost count of the number of times he makes Pallavi’ s Catholic character Dr Abraham(with a slip-on-slip-off Albert Pinto accent) tearful with his taunts and tirades.
In normal times Dr Bhargava’s character would be guilty of harassment.The role suits Patekar like a glove. Sadly the talented Divya Seth who plays Patekar’s bitter-half gets just one sequence: an ironical comment on how the vaccinators forfeited their home life for the Covid antidote.
Everyone is busy dishing out gyan in this well-researched though verbose film, even the vamp-journalist Raima Sen’s surprisingly well-clued in househelp.My favourite character is that of Dr Abraham gardner’s little son who doesn’t speak a word and brings her a freshly plucked rose each morning.
If only the characters didn’t have to over-explain everything, in case the research goes unnoticed.