In the current scare with #COVID19, everyone should be watching this Malayalam film, Virus (2019), on how the state of Kerala handled the 2018 Nipah virus outbreak swiftly and effectively. The film directed by Aashiq Abu can be described as a documentary on the deadly episode. Under normal circumstances, I may not have liked this film as much as I did now, but I did and it eased my current anxiety a bit. It is available in Amazon Prime Video.
It starts with a single case of a young male, dying under mysterious conditions, quickly snowballing into an outbreak with nurses and doctors getting affected first. The local officials are clueless until one Doctor suggest testing for Nipah, soon the result comes as positive from Manipal Institute’s virology department, starting a frantic search for the source of the virus by the local administration. The Government of India officials from New Delhi are shown working in parallel with their theory of a bio-attack by terrorists, this may sound absurd but under the circumstance ruling it out would’ve been careless for public safety.
The first fifteen minutes, shows a junior doctor in the emergency room of the “Government Medical College, Kozhikode” handling the swarm of patients pouring in with a wide range of problems – accident, infection, heart attack, stroke and so on – I have been to emergency rooms caring for loved ones, but seeing the health-care workers in action in the silver screen my admiration and respect towards them has increased many-fold. The film continues this focus, to communicate the sufferings of the infected (80% mortality) and the methodology adopted by the state administration under the supervision of the Health Minister (played by veteran Revathi). There are no heroes and villains in this film.
The collector and his team quarantine the suspected and do their etymology tracing without applying any force or enlisting the police, with the aim of not to scare the populace. We see how people react when they are scared for their lives. Despite their best efforts, the way the general population reacts is scary – people suspected of Nipah and their relatives getting stigmatized, and, suspecting Government’s advisories. We see the other side of the coin, of selfless souls (the Doctors and the attenders working with the infected and the dead) stepping up and helping under illogical circumstances, without them the world will self-destruct in no time – we owe it to them.
The film ends with the scene showing Patient #1 catching the Nipah virus from a baby fruit-bat, seeing one hurt and fallen on-road, he stops to take a photo for an Instagram post and then helps it to its nest. Though this may be scientifically weak, it brings closure to the audience.