When death stares you in the eye while you are crawling with desperation and helplessness. With no one to support anywhere. What happens at that time is very difficult to understand for anyone who was not there.
Now add in adversaries who are obsessively trying to smother you for no other reason than their unbridled hatred for your very existence.
And, you have to face both - a brutal death and its allies.
Normal human beings will clutch at any straw that one can get a hold of.
Those, however, who decide to not just work hard to lift themselves up in the face of certain death but also help others are rare. One in many a millennium.
India took that route with leaders willing to do the impossible. At every level.
To an audience that has almost forgotten the trauma, they went through collectively.
In those dark times of despair, when one couldn’t even cremate his own parents or see them in the end, humanity seemed to have died.
Somewhere in those hopeless days, a few shone bright and hard.
Scientists and the frontline workers.
Crafting the story of those despondent times from the numerous tragedies we all saw is one thing. To create the emotion that engulfed humanity is quite another.
That is where Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri succeeded spectacularly.
“I was crying non-stop by the end,” said my wife. “Same here,” I admitted.
Not an eye was dry.
We had been there. And, as happens with every existential trauma, we all had buried its memories deep inside somewhere in a vault that none of us were ready to open.
Unbeknownst to us, we all were suffering from PTSD.
The Vaccine War brought us all a cathartic emotional release that was needed.
But not the way a torture artist pries open your wound with a scalpel. Rather as a gentle healer who touches you with a smile while telling you a human story of love and courage.
The intense optimism as an outcome of an existential triumph was both, the anesthesia and the balm.
Coronavirus hit us all around the world. Everyone. The suspense of a medical cure. The trauma of millions of deaths around the world. The loss of our loved ones and friends. The anger at the orchestration of this all coupled with the denials and lies perpetrated via media and governments. Above all, the imperialist razing of the less fortunate by the powers of the world who, one questioned, may have had a hand in the orchestration itself.
We all went through the attack, the silencing, and then hopelessness against the power of the ruthless.
What The Vaccine War shared was not just the story of Indian scientists but of humanity as a whole. Humanity’s battle against those who had lost humanity and a weapon they unleashed, that was existential in nature.
All this complexity was weaved into a story that shared just a handful of the terrain of those times but yet managed to tell the tale that was needed.
The screenplay, the dialog, and the scenes were knit tightly with not a moment to take your eyes off. The use of shlokas to convey the existential nature of our lives and the privilege of living in the most crucial junctures of the movie was masterful.
Within the larger story, many untold and unspoken tales were woven. Like that of the gardener's son and the peon. No one spoke. The director did that!
Something that reminded one of those strokes of genius that legends like V. Shantaram or Bimal Roy would add. A great director does not need words to tell a story. Every character and component of the set is made to do that. That was the hallmark of Vivek in The Vaccine War.
Performances were spot-on and mesmerizing. But one character stood out. The one played by Nana Patekar. He was like the harmonium in an orchestra that set the tone of the scenes.
While Nana Patekar was the harmonium, Pallavi Joshi was the flute. She was the feminine energy of resilience, courage, love, and helplessness sometimes but above all the signature of what Indian women achieved.
“India can do it,” was the cry of everyone at the end of the movie. Even those who weren’t born there. For, India was not a nation anymore. She became an emotion.
That was, in my view, the greatest triumph of this movie.
When the movie is released on September 28th this year, please do one thing. Buy an extra ticket for those who will not be able to but had suffered as much or worse. They were the ones whom no one ever told how loved they were. You can. Do It!
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