Dr. Ritu Gagra happens to be one of the best-written characters in the latest Netflix original show, Kaala Paani. The makers introduced her as a supporting character. As the show progressed, her character became a crucial player. In the absence of Dr. Soudamini Singh, many officials and doctors relied on Ritu’s findings since the former shared plenty of input with Ritu before her passing.
Dr. Ritu’s character will be reminiscent of Harry Potter, who was seemingly kept in the dark about how to find the remaining Horcruxes after Albus Dumbledore’s passing. Harry eventually found all the answers based on the limited knowledge his professor shared with him. Dr. Ritu, who received a doctoral degree for her research on communicable diseases, was initially clueless. Based on the bare minimum knowledge she had acquired from Dr. Singh helped her build an extensive report on LHF-27. She quickly began her research on the cure as well, which was an impossible task.
Dr. Ritu’s character in Kaala Paani was initially unaware of the outbreak and the seriousness of it. Only Dr. Singh knew of the details, and with her passing, the onus was on Ritu and Dr. Mahajan. Ritu did not have a medical degree, to begin with, and her expertise was restricted to conducting research and tests to understand the nature of the bacterial outbreak that was engulfing the island.
Ritu was perpetually a nervous person who was not used to leading projects. Even though she was asked to keep the outbreak news to herself, she chose to leak the information. Ritu claimed it was the public’s right to know about the health emergency. Her job remained secure till the end because of shortage of medical staff all around the island. Ritu’s search for a cure began immediately because the situation on the island had deteriorated very quickly. Dr. Singh had carried out certain surface-level research on the cure before her demise. Using that as her basis, Ritu began her search for the plant ‘Andamania Echnemia.’ Her investigation quickly directed her towards several places on the island where she could gain access to this rare plant that was claimed to be extinct. Ritu’s search for ‘Andamania Echnemia’ was relentless, but those routes led her to a dead end. The peptide found in ‘Andamania Echnemia’ is a cure for LHF-27, as per her findings. This breakthrough is the reason for her desperate search. Ritu is under a lot of pressure from the administration and the hospital authority, as they need to find a cure before the epidemic goes out of control. None of them wanted a COVID-19-style situation.
Ritu’s search for the ‘Andamania Echnemia’ takes a surprise twist when Enmae, an Oraka tribe member, is taken into custody to be questioned about the same plant. On a thorough check-up, Ritu is shocked to learn that Orakas have been consuming ‘Andamania Echnemia’ for generations, which created an in-built immunity against LHF-27 and their other variants that had hit the island in the past. Oraka bodies contain the peptide Ritu was looking for, which will be essential in curing the LHF-27 infection. Ritu essentially did find the cure for this disease, but a painful dilemma bothered her. She was not in favor of the administration suggesting making the Oraka tribe a part of the trial. Ritu understands that she is expected to carry out an illegal procedure. The desperation of the administration and the executives of ATOM was palpable. They were willing to sacrifice an indigenous tribe to save themselves.
Enmae was willing to put himself through the procedure, but Chiru stepped in to offer himself. Chiru, being half Oraka, helped Ritu extract essential peptides from his body and use them on the infected patients. A nerve-wracked Ritu was filled with memories of her father, who was constantly attacked for the caste he belonged to. Her father’s professional standing in the community did not matter to the society, which is why it was essential for Ritu to succeed here. She wanted to be known for her job, not her surname. Ritu was raised on the belief that her identity is the work she does and not the family she was born into. Ritu lives up to this advice given by her father and confidently proceeds with the trial of utilizing the peptide on the infected patients.
The trial was a success, as many patients recovered from the infection. The success of this trial only encouraged the administration to entertain the idea of forcing the Oraka to surrender and offer themselves. Ritu and her colleagues wanted more time to look for ‘Andamania Echnemia’ instead of killing humans intentionally. Oraka were vulnerable to surgeries and other medicines that would be injected into their system as a part of the procedure. The administration and ATOM were essentially suggesting the genocide of this community for the sake of the greater good.
Dr. Ritu and Jyotsana went out of their way to find out more about ‘Andamania Echnemia’ and the places it can be found around the island. Jyotsana was a resourceful person. As per the journal she found at the old Japanese military bunker, other islands harbor this plant. Both women were diligent about wanting to find a cure before the administration sanctioned Oraka’s arrest. Ritu was asked to join the ATOM team as they wanted her to be a part of the lab research and produce LHF-27’s medicine for the global market. Dr. Ritu had become a self-reliant person, and she could not have blood on her hands, unlike ATOM and the island administration. Ritu’s persistence and her commitment to finding a legitimate cure allowed Ketan Kamat to see her in a different light.
Dr. Ritu indeed found a cure for the disease, and unlike others, she was not willing to put hundreds of Oraka lives under threat to save humanity. She begins her journey to seek the island in search of ‘Andamania Echnemia.’ Season one ends with the hope of Dr. Ritu succeeding in her mission.