The Vaccine War: Vivek Agnihotri’s Directorial Is Not As Good As The Title

A big problem with ‘The Vaccine War’ is the extreme heavy-handedness with which Vivek Agnihotri narrates his story.

Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files was one of the biggest hits of 2022. The movie was a surprise hit as not much was expected from it.

And now, the director is back with another heavy subject. This time, the results are not so satisfactory.

The Vaccine War is about a group of determined scientists who face many challenges while making a vaccine when the entire world including India was crippled by the Coronavirus in 2020.

Synopsis

Nana Patekar plays Bhargava, the chief scientist, in the film. He is both eccentric and a workaholic.

At times, Bhargava also comes across as stone-hearted, but he enjoys certain respect from his team.

His army consists of mostly women. These include Priya Abraham (Pallavi Joshi), Nivedita Gupta (Girija Oak), and Dr Pragya Yadav (Nivedita Bhattacharya).

It is a treat to watch these women handling multiple roles, professionally and personally.

The main villain of this tale is a science journalist Rohini Singh Dhulia (Raima Sen). Her character is shown running a smear campaign against the government, with particular vehemence. She writes long articles that undermine the noble efforts of the scientists.

On the surface, The Vaccine War reminds us of Mission Mangal (2019). There too, you had a group of women scientists headed by Vidya Balan. However, the treatment of both the films is quite different.

Pluses and minuses

A big problem with The Vaccine War is the extreme heavy-handedness with which director Vivek Agnihotri narrates the story.

There is a lot of high-sounding terminology that the director uses, and this ends up boring the audience.

To give credit where it is due, Vivek is successful in staging some good emotional moments. Most of these moments are concerning the characters played by Pallavi Joshi and Girija Oak. Viewers feel genuine empathy towards them.

The struggles of the women scientists in balancing their professional and personal duties are shown well by the director.

He also gives some nice emotional touches to the character of Nana Patekar. The duo makes sure that Bhargava doesn’t come across as a caricature.

Another big problem with The Vaccine War is the characterisation of journalist Rohini Singh Dhulia. This is not the first film which is guilty of portraying the media in a negative light.

Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju (2018) also made the media a big scapegoat for Sanjay Dutt’s bad image, but the director balanced the negative portrayal of the media with other elements.

Nevertheless, in The Vaccine War, not only does Rohini Singh occupy much more space than needed, but also has a constant smirk on her face which is irritating to watch. There is no second layer either in her characterisation or performance.

Final take

To sum it up, The Vaccine War is a long-drawn showcase of the government’s “achievements”.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

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