Vivek Agnihotri: ‘India doesn’t make science films, we think audience is dumb' | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Vivek Agnihotri interview on The Vaccine War: ‘India doesn’t make science films as Bollywood thinks audience is dumb’

ByDevansh Sharma
Sep 14, 2023 09:35 AM IST

Vivek Agnihotri says in an exclusive interview that he would've called The Vaccine War “India's first science film” had there been no Rocketry before it.

After the breakout box-office performance of his last film, The Kashmir Files, that won him the Nargis Dutt award for Best Film on National Integration, Vivek Agnihotri is all set to deliver his next, The Vaccine War.

Vivek Agnihotri's The Vaccine War is being touted as "India's first bio-science film"
Vivek Agnihotri's The Vaccine War is being touted as "India's first bio-science film"

(Also Read: The Vaccine War trailer: It's Indian scientists vs naysayers in Vivek Agnihotri's next film)

In an exclusive interview, Vivek discusses directing a bio-science film, why its box office success doesn't concern him, and whether he'd work with actors who do not share the same enthusiasm for Bharat as he does. Edited excerpts:

The trailer of The Vaccine War claims it's “India's first bio-science film.” Is it really India's first?

Ya, we don't make science films. I think… I believe that our first true science film was Rocketry. But that was about astronomy. The Vaccine War is about bio-science. If Madhavan had not made Rocketry, I would've called it India's first science film. But this is a 100% genuine science film because the entire film takes place inside a lab. Every single character in the film is a scientist. And these are names of real scientists. It's not like I've fictionalised them.

Why do you think India has not explored this genre much? There was Aashiq Abu's 2019 Malayalam medical thriller Virus though.

I'm sure in regional languages, people must've made some good films. But the typical Bollywood actually believes audience is dumb. That's why they make dumb films for them. And science is not dumb. That's why India has not made a science film.

There was a movement of anti-vaxxers during the COVID pandemic. Have you made this film as a retaliation to their claims against getting vaccinated?

Yes, this film is definitely an answer to that. I think science is an area where only experts should interfere. Common people should not. There are so many myths. I used to believe in so many things. After making this film, I realised I was wrong.

You said that while you'd be happy to watch tentpole films like Jawan first day first show, you also urged the audience to give smaller films like The Vaccine War a chance. How confident are you of the film's commercial prospects?

See, when The Kashmir Files made money, people thought that it's unprecedented. Then came Pathaan, that surpassed those numbers. Then came Gadar 2. And now comes Jawan. I feel the most painful life is of those who chase numbers. Because numbers are meant to be broken. For me, if even one girl gets inspired by my film to become a virologist, I'll consider my film successful. We've shown it to 5,000 people in the US so far. They've cried, laughed, felt proud, they came out and hugged us and thanked us for making this film. Now, how people react to it in India will be a litmus test. I care about reactions of people, I don't care about box office.

You recently had a public spat with Naseeruddin Shah, whom you've worked with in The Tashkent Files in 2019. Do you feel you'll not be able to work with actors who do not agree with you politically or aren't as vocal as you?

It doesn't matter what people share on social media or not. Social media isn't a barometer to judge people's character. I don't care about that. What people do in real life matters a lot. I've seen a lot of stars and filmmakers do a lot for the nation. It's not like they don't. What people say sometimes can be misunderstood. But I do it because somebody has to speak up. When I'm in a position of influence, and I can influence even 10 young people to believe in India's newfound confidence and to take India forward, that's more than enough.

You said at the trailer launch that the Hindi film industry made you feel that your film doesn't even exist. Do you believe National Awards to both you and your wife Pallavi Joshi would empower you as independent producers?

It doesn't empower you financially, socially or politically. The only thing it does is to make you believe in your work even more. It also gives you kind of a quality certification so people also believe that yes, your product is going to have quality. But I look at the award more as a responsibility that I have to deliver better quality next time. And I'm trying to do that with my films.

The Vaccine War is slated to release in cinemas on September 28.

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