Film maker Vivek Agnihotri revealed many interesting facts about his upcoming film ‘The Vaccine War’ in an exclusive interview with OTTplay
Last Updated: 03.24 PM, Sep 14, 2023
Even though the film maker Vivek Agnihotri’s last film ‘The Kashmir Files’ was surrounded by many controversies, the film did went onto become one of the smash hit films of last year. With ‘fearlessness’ being his middle name, film maker Vivek Agnihotri is now all geared up for the release of his next film ‘The Vaccine Wars’. Not the one to fear to call a spade a spade, Vivek Agnihotri, in his trademark style exclusively spoke to OTTplay, wherein he revealed many important facts about his film ‘The Vaccine Wars’.
To start with, what do you see when you look back at Vivek Agnihotri, a bright student of Indian Institute of Mass Communication and Harvard Extension School (for a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management), to being a Creative Director for many prestigious campaigns till ‘The Vaccine War’?
It has been a roller coaster ride full of adventures (smiles).
‘The Vaccine War’ has been titled as India’s first ‘bio-science’ film. Can you elaborate on that?
Yes! Ours is India’s first bio-science film. The problem is that, till date, in India, the science that we have promoted are only rocket science and Information Technology. But nobody has ever understood that on 20th of March 2020, everybody thought we were going to die. And then, exactly one year later, most of the people got saved. But, the science behind what was killing us and how we all got saved, nobody seemed to care. So, I thought it's very important that people should know about it. And people should celebrate those scientists who saved our lives and also the lives of people in 101 countries.
The trailer has the mantra ‘Srishtee se pehle sat nahin thaa, asat bhi nahin…’ Is it taken from ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’?
The origin of this mantra is from our very own ‘Rigved’. As for the musical version, we had purchased the rights of the song. It was Vanraj Bhatia who had composed it and was penned by Pt. Vasant Devji. We re-recoded the whole track. And, the end result is simply divine.
The trailer has Nana Patekar stating that “We need to concentrate on only the eye of the fish”. Is that the philosophy that you also apply in your daily life while making a film?
(Smiles). Actually, that is so true. And that is from where the line originated from. In my office, I always tell my entire staff that one should not see anything except for the eyes of the fish. This is everyone’s life’s first ever lesson. And, in my opinion, if the whole of India decides that we should not see anything except for the eye of the fish, then, no power can beat India in anything!
Pallavi Joshi and Nana Patekar are coming together after so many years. They were seen in ‘Andha Yudh’ in 1987 and ‘Trishagni’ in 1988. How was the first scene that they shot for ‘The Vaccine War’?
I am glad that you remember these films. And, to answer your question, the first scene that they both shot for was very memorable. All that I can see is that the film’s pre-climax scenes are one of the best scenes to have ever been shot. It was great fun. Honestly, I am blessed to have worked with some fantastic actors over time. Nana Patekar and Pallavi Joshi are a lethal combination. When you will see this film, you'll see what good matured acting is all about. This film is a masterclass in acting not just from Nana Patekar and Pallavi Joshi, but from each and every actor in the film. But a major contribution is that of Nana!
While on Nana Patekar, is it true that you were told by many that he beats up the directors and even abuses the directors?
Yes! It’s true. A few people did tell me that it's difficult to work with Nana and that he had even beaten up a couple of directors, I assume. But, after working with him, I realized that whatever Nana does, he does what perfection. So, when I met Nana, I told him that if he wants, he can slap me four times, but he needs to surrender to the role that I had written for him in the film. And, he actually surrendered to the role without even saying anything. We both have immense love and respect for each other’s craft.
Your film ‘The Vaccine Wars’ is an on-screen adaptation of Dr Balram Bhargava's book, ‘Going Viral: The Making of Covaxin’? Is the film a frame-to-frame adaption of the book or have you taken cinematic liberties in the film?
Even though the film is based on the book, the said book is non-fiction. And, one cannot make a film only on that (non-fiction). So therefore, we went on to do intensive research and long and detailed interviews of the scientists, their families, even the watchmen and also the canteen guy to understand the total reality. So, we have used the book as reference and also these interviews. But we have used real names in the film.
How much of the real life Balram Bhargava (former Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) can we see in the character played by Nana Patekar in the film? Did Nana interact with the real Balram Bhargava to know him better?
No, Nana did not interact with him. He said that, “If I do that, then, I will start mimicking him and I will never be able to become him. It's impossible for anybody to become that. So let me do it my way”. But with the help of the dialogues, themes and scripts, Nana has played Balram Bhargava so nicely that even Balram Bhargava couldn't believe that it was him! (smiles).
What ‘role’ does music play in the film?
In my opinion, music plays the most important role in this film. And since it’s a science film, normally, every music director would do a thriller or techno kind of music... or maybe today's modern music. Let me also tell you that, after having tried every kind of music, we felt nothing was working out. And that’s when we said that, since music was present like a character in the film, lets treat it like a character. And so, we used Indian classical raag! And the end result is simply divine.
How has been the response to the film’s music by those who have heard it?
It's very beautiful, positive and encouraging. Everybody who has seen it, has been praising the great music of this film, which has been composed by Rohit Sharma.
Getting threats is not new to you. Your short film ‘Mohammad and Urvashi’ had got you threats. Post that, it was ‘The Kashmir Files’. And now with ‘The Vaccine Wars’, are you mentally prepared for the threats that it may bring with it?
More than threats, they will try to lynch me on social media. They will try to pull me down by calling me all sorts of names. They will call me a flop director who doesn’t know how to make films etc… That doesn’t mean that India did not make the vaccine. Likewise, they said so many things about my film ‘The Kashmir Files’. That doesn’t mean that the genocide of Hindus did not take place in Kashmir. They can kill me or lynch me, but cannot destroy the fact that India had made the vaccine and also the success of India.
A couple of years ago, there was a stir because of a news article that stated that you had falsely claimed that cannabis kills COVID-19. Will this or any such incident find a place in the film?
Yaar… listen! If people do not understand humour, it's their problem! If the so-called fact checker could not understand my humour, I just can't help it. (laughs)
Your film ‘The Kashmir Files’ could not make it to the Oscars. With vaccines being a global issue, do you think, this time round, ‘The Vaccine Wars’, has all it takes to be sent to the Oscars?
We never made this film for the Oscars in the first place. Our ambition while making the film was that people should know such incidents had taken place. And, that’s more than enough for me.