Ghost Of Wuhan
May 7, 2023
RC Pathak and Ankit Mishra
Ankit Mishra, Diksha Pathak, Veer Kant Singh
Lest we forget, three years ago we were in the grip of a global pandemic the likes of which the world had never seen before. Since then there's been a deluge of indie films trying to take on the subject, coming at it from a variety of different viewpoints, but mostly settling on a few similar themes such as suffering, fear and isolation. Thankfully Hollywood has tended to stay away from telling lockdown stories or everyday tales of heroism from during the pandemic, probably feeling that showing images of coughing and painful death might not be the way to encourage the masses back into dark, cramped, crowded movie theatres. Still, it seems the indie film-makers aren't yet finished with what they consider to be the goldmine of COVID-19, from which they can salvage and scrabble together ready made stories that carry resonance and weight and which are undoubtedly relatable to the audience.
Into this vast and muddled field now comes Ghost of Wuhan from writer/director Ankit Mishra, giving us his take on what it might be like for someone caught in the clutches of the virus very early on in the pandemic before anyone really knew what it was. Not bothering to trouble himself with anything so base as characterisation, Ankit casts himself in the main role and goes on to give his character the inspired name of Ankit. In this fantasy however, Ankit (the character) is an ingenious virologist who has just returned home to India after extended years of study in, you guessed it, Wuhan.
The film follows the structure of a chamber piece as Ankit finds out that he is sick and we along with him slowly begin to work out just what it is that's the matter. Relying on his ex-girlfriend, Diksha (again inspirationally named and played by Diksha Pathak) and his old doctor friend Saurav (Singh) to keep him alive with food parcels, brown bags full of drugs and socially distanced conversations over the phone, Ankit stumbles about his house displaying all of the symptoms and sits down to put his virology degree to good use to try and diagnose and ultimately cure himself.
Throughout all of this the photography has been bland, the colour muted, the direction shaky, the acting amateur, the editing sharp and cutting, and the audio mismatched to the visuals – leaving the whole production feeling like a one-man band who doesn't know how to play his instruments properly. The story, before it takes its fantastical turn, is basic and stale with a lot of the film taken up with scenes of coughing and rolling around on the floor, but then it strays into conspiracy territory when Ankit deliberately points a finger at Chinese scientists declaring that they made the virus in their lab on purpose.
There are also reckless points being made towards the end of the piece, when through his incredible skill and determination, Ankit manages to find a cure for COVID-19 all on his own in his bedroom, then beats the disease through breathing techniques and homeopathic remedies. These are dangerously naïve views to promote and not only ignore the tireless, endless work of scientists and health professionals the world over but also besmirches and trivialises the deaths of millions as we watch how doing yoga and drinking bergamot tea would seemingly have helped keep them alive.
Ghost Of Wuhan is a basic attempt at a lockdown story which tries to glamourise and celebrate the role of a single virologist in beating the pandemic but which in reality only goes to snub the actual involvement of those who helped their communities to survive.