Pallavi Joshi and Vivek Agnihotri

Washington: “The Vaccine War”, which is currently being privately screened for Indian Americans in various US cities, is inspired by the accomplishments of Indian scientists, in particular women, according to film director Vivek Agnihotri and movie star Pallavi Joshi.

“We are not Bollywood. That’s why we can afford to make films like this,” Vivek told PTI in a joint interview with his actor wife Pallavi.

The couple are currently in the Washington DC area for the private screening of “The Vaccine War” which they said is based on the true story of Indian scientists in their fight against COVID-19 by developing an affordable vaccine for India and the world.

“We realised the amount of work that the (Indian) scientists have done, it’s not just inside the lab, but finding monkeys, evacuating people from Iran. I mean they just went completely out of their comfort zone. We thought that this is a great story to tell. “And I think the icing on the cake was the fact that about 70 per cent of the scientists are women. That somewhere touched a cord inside me and then Vivek said this is something that we must show to the world. This will show them what women empowerment is all about,” Pallavi said.

The work being done by women scientists in the laboratories of the country is a different kind of patriotism and they are the unsung heroes of India, who need to be recognised and given due credit, Vivek said.

This is the time to celebrate the women scientists of India, and not just cricketers and Bollywood stars, he added.

According to the filmmaker, known for his films “Chocolate”, “Hate Story”, “The Tashkent Files” and “The Kashmir Files”, their film has been shot under the supervision of scientists.

“The monkeys are real ones from ICMR…. These are real locations. This is the first movie in world history that has been shot in a real BSL-4 lab (biosafety level),” he said.

In the movie, the media has been portrayed as a villain and Vivek said there are genuine reasons for this. He said it is reflective of what happened during the COVID crisis and when a section of the media wrote stories that were influenced by foreign players.

“Earlier journalists used to understand the difference between a country and the government. In today’s environment that has vanished… I personally feel that during the COVID crisis, some journalists played a negative role,” he said.

“(Such journalists) wished that (indigenous development of) vaccines should fail, death of a large number of people so as to pass on the blame to the government and to embarrass them. This is not a good thing. There was a concerted campaign in this regard. (We have) shown real tweets in the movie, original articles,” he claimed.

Vivek claimed that he had just changed the name of the foreign foundation that created the anti-India tool kit. The rest of it is fact-based and not fiction as happens in movies, he added.

“Vested interests are working overtime to put speed breakers in the development and progress of India,” he claimed.

Both Vivek and Pallavi observed that Bollywood today has lost track and deviated from its path. Money minting is the sole objective, she said.

“I still hope that if there are younger filmmakers who just get inspired from our films, we will see good cinemas coming up. We’ll see Indian stories coming up. And the younger generation has so many more solutions. Their minds work so much faster than anyone else,” she said.

Vivek said his “grudge” against today’s Bollywood is that in the era of “Karan Johar-Shah Rukh Khan” post-liberalization, movie makers made money making as their top priority rather than sharing values and ethos of the society they live in.

“Common man has now disappeared from our movies. Except for a few movies like ‘3 Idiots, ‘Dangal’ and ‘Kashmir Files’, Indian movies no longer have a common man. They are now being built for the overseas market and not for Indians,” he said. “After watching Bollywood movies, today you would know more about London and New York and nothing about India,” he noted.

Refuting allegations from his critics that his movies help one political party or ideology, both Vivek and Pallavi said they are truly impressed by the current political leadership of the country.

“Even as the Prime Minister had a very important role during the COVID-19 crisis, I purposefully did not show him, just because of the opposition that I would have faced from certain vested interests and that would have defeated the purpose behind making this movie,” he said.

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