“Karna hai to karna hai!” – If you have to do it, you have to do it.

This phrase echoed in my mind as I settled in front of our TV, eagerly anticipating ‘The Vaccine War.’  I had a very long bucket list of movies to see and OTT platforms to explore.  I did binge-watch some series when I was recovering from an illness a while back.  However, in the past few months, my tight schedule left no time for movies.  Last Sunday evening, I suddenly found myself free for a couple of hours.  I immediately switched on Disney+ Hotstar to watch ‘The Vaccine War.’  Directed by National Award-winning Vivek Agnihotri, this film is more than just a cinematic experience; it’s a testament to India’s indomitable spirit and scientific prowess.

The moment the film started, I was drawn into a narrative that was both educational and deeply moving. “The Vaccine War” is not our typical Bollywood movie. It transcends the usual trappings of the industry – there are no unnecessary dance numbers or exaggerated dramatizations. Instead, it presents a stark, honest portrayal of the challenges and triumphs of Indian scientists during the pandemic.

As the story unfolded, I was struck by the film’s candid depiction of the hurdles faced in developing the Covaxin vaccine. From the shortage of raw materials to the relentless media scrutiny, the film didn’t shy away from showing the immense pressure that our scientists worked under. It was a refreshing change to see a film tackle such a sensitive topic with grace and objectivity, especially in an industry often criticized for sugarcoating facts.

What made “The Vaccine War” stand out was its focus on the human element behind the scientific endeavour. The struggles, the ethical dilemmas, and the sheer determination of the characters brought the narrative to life. Nana Patekar and Pallavi Joshi have delivered powerful performances, embodying the conflict and resilience of their characters with remarkable authenticity.

The climax of the film, lasting 30 to 45 minutes, was particularly stirring. It highlighted the sacrifices made by our women scientists, showcasing their vital role in the vaccine’s development. This part of the film resonated with me the most, as it shed light on the often-underrated contributions of women in science and technology.

The Vaccine War

What struck me was how the movie highlighted India’s journey towards self-reliance, or ‘Atma Nirbhar.’ It was inspiring to see how the media’s initial skepticism of “India Can’t Do It” transformed into a resounding “India Can Do It.” The film not only celebrates our scientific achievements but also challenges the narrative often portrayed in the media, both domestic and international.

One of the most commendable aspects of “The Vaccine War” is its educational value. It urges viewers to question the sources of information and to prioritize evidence-based decision-making. In a world rife with misinformation, this film stands as a beacon of truth and reason.

The cinematography deserves special mention. It not only captured the human side of the story but also the intricate scientific processes involved in combating the virus. The visual storytelling was engaging, keeping me hooked from start to finish.

But the film is more than just a retelling of the pandemic saga. It’s a reminder of the adversities faced by India in the global arena. The movie recalls how the international media tried to downplay India’s achievements, like the Chandrayaan mission, yet India persevered and succeeded against all odds.

“The Vaccine War” does not just celebrate a scientific milestone; it’s a tribute to the spirit of India and its people. The performances, direction, and narrative all combine to create a compelling story of resilience, determination, and success.

As the end credits rolled and my heart erupted with cheers of “Bharath Mata ki Jai,” I couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride. This movie is a must-watch, not just for its cinematic excellence but for the message it carries – a message of hope, resilience, and the capability of Indians to achieve great feats.

Nana Patekar in The Vaccine War

“Vaccine War” is a cinematic tale that not only showcases India’s monumental achievement in the medical realm but also highlights exceptional acting and storytelling. Nana Patekar’s portrayal is particularly noteworthy, bringing depth and intensity to his role. This film isn’t just about a significant scientific achievement; it’s a celebration of the Indian spirit and the brilliance of its artists.

Amidst all this, we naturally feel proud of our beloved Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, for his support towards our scientists and medical science during the Covid-19 pandemic.  He urged the citizens of India to express their gratitude towards those working tirelessly against COVID-19 by ringing bells.  On March 19, he called for collective resolve and restraint to combat the coronavirus, announcing a Janta Curfew on March 22.  This was followed by a 21-day nationwide lockdown starting March 24 to contain the virus’s spread.   Additionally, he urged people to switch off lights for 9 minutes at 9pm on a specific Sunday and light diyas, candles, or use mobile phone flashlights, symbolizing unity in this fight.  He was heckled by a certain section of media and people. However, his support to scientists is not mere hearsay. I personally listened to his 78th Mann Ki Baat radio address, where he stressed the importance of trusting science and scientists, particularly regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine and in countering misinformation.

I was the first person to Covid-19 vaccine in my medical college. I do appreciate that our Government started its vaccination drive first by providing vaccines to healthcare workers, the first responders and then to elderly and high risk groups. India successfully carried out the world’s largest COVID vaccination campaign, administering 2.2 billion doses nationwide without facing any shortages. This massive effort contributed to saving approximately 3.4 million lives. Embracing the philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family), India extended its generosity by donating vaccines to 101 countries through the Vaccine Maitri program. And these are no small achievements. The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, conveyed his appreciation to India and Prime Minister Modi for exporting vaccines. In his message, he included a photograph depicting Lord Hanuman carrying vaccines and a mountain from India to Brazil, symbolizing the aid provided.

I slept that night with a renewed sense of pride and a deeper appreciation for the efforts of our medical community. “The Vaccine War” is a reminder that when it comes to overcoming challenges, “Indian can do it.” This film is a beacon of inspiration and a shining example of India’s potential in both cinema and science.

Now it is time for all of us to deeply etch on our minds, “Indians can do it.” 

Prof. Dr. Prahlada N. B
28 November 2023

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