I remember the time the Nipah scare had gripped Kozhikode and the whole of Kerala. The virus was deadly. Death was painful, we were told. The fear was palpable. The streets of Kozhikode were deserted. Newspapers carried front-page pictures and reports of doctors dressed in white suits, looking completely alien, committed to their duty, equipped to fight the unknown. We saw workers taking out hazardous medical bio-waste in torrential rain. Saw Kerala’s government and bureaucratic mechanism swinging into action. The fear of the unknown strongly lingered and the way ahead was still murky but the willpower and grit of a group of people from the State’s health department was awe inspiring. And, that was a story that demanded to be told.
The biggest challenge was to reflect reality and to portray incidents without dramatically exaggerating them. To show how precarious a situation it was just by itself, without any additional drama. To be true to the people who sacrificed their lives and dedicated their time and energy to this cause. The intense research by scriptwriters Muhsin, Sharfu and Suhas was a great springboard. Sharfu has spoken to more than 100 people directly involved or affected by the Nipah crisis. And while shooting the scenes, there were moments when we realised this actually happened. We shot in the isolation wards of the Government Medical College, Kozhikode, where patients were treated. There were times when it was way too close to reality for us.
Playing the braveheart Lini Sister was heartbreaking. It was an intensely emotional space. To try and relive her last moments. To understand what she must have felt when she realised the seriousness of her situation. What she must have gone through when she understood that she will never meet her loved ones again. Her frame of mind when she wrote her last letter. But, at the same time, I feel honoured. I have tremendous respect for her.
Virus was about the collective spirit of people. About how energies come together and inspire us to do extraordinary things for a larger good. That energy worked even on the sets, even with actors who came together for the movie. Everyone wanted to see this story told.
Today when the world is fighting another virus attack on a global scale, we feel reassured because we know what a brilliant team we have here in our Health Ministry, especially our Health Minister Shailaja Teacher. We are humbled when people mention that the movie helped them better understand the situation we are now facing. But then, that’s the power of cinema.