In 2020, as the novel coronavirus spread across the world, India faced the challenge of evacuating its citizens from Iran while testing them for COVID-19. However, India struggled with a shortage of testing kits, PPE, and funds. The designated team couldn’t even board their flight due to insufficient funds. Despite this low point, India managed to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, in less than a year, as depicted in Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s “The Vaccine War.”
The movie begins with India’s first official COVID-19 case in early 2020. Dr. Balram Bhargava (Nana Patekar) leads a team of dedicated scientists and doctors, predominantly women, from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV). They work tirelessly against all odds to develop India’s first indigenous vaccine.
Amidst their efforts, a journalist (Raima Sen) attempts to cast doubt on Indian scientists and their vaccine. Her catchphrase, “India can’t do it,” becomes a central theme.
“The Vaccine War” skillfully balances the scientific and human aspects of vaccine development. Realistic and relatable characters, based on actual figures, draw the audience into their arduous journey.
While focusing on the scientists’ sacrifices, the movie briefly shifts to the subplot of an anti-establishment journalist, which, while not overdone, alters the movie’s initial realistic approach.
Nana Patekar delivers an impactful performance as the head of the ICMR. Pallavi Joshi as Dr. Priya Abraham offers excellent support, portraying innocence in her interactions with Nana. Girija Oak impresses as a frontline worker and a family woman.
Raima Sen aptly plays the journalist with malicious intentions, and Nivedita Bhattacharya portrays Dr. Pragya Yadav with earnestness. Sapthami Gowda leaves an impact, while Anupam Kher shines in a smaller role.
Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, the storyteller, simplifies complex bio-science, maintaining a human connection throughout. The movie’s strength lies in its character portrayal, keeping viewers engaged even during minor deviations.
“The Vaccine War” is a must-watch in theaters, showcasing the compelling stories of India’s scientists and doctors who dedicated themselves to developing a COVID-19 vaccine. It evokes memories of the pandemic but leaves you hopeful, grateful, and proud.