The Railway Men Review: Multi-Track Human Tragedy

The Railway Men is a historical drama streaming television miniseries about railway workers who saved many lives during the 1984 Bhopal disaster. It is produced by YRF Entertainment and stars R. Madhavan, Kay Kay Menon, Divyenndu and Babil Khan.

General Rating

In a nut-shell:

Multi-track Human Tragedy

The Railway Men Star Cast/ Actors: R. Madhavan as Rati Pandey, Kay Kay Menon as Iftekaar Siddiqui, Divyenndu as Baldev and Babil Khan as Imad Riaz.

The Railway Men Director: Shiv Rawail

The Railway Men Release Date: November 18, 2023

The Railway Men Available On: Netflix

The Railway Men Released/ Available In Languages: Hindi

The Railway Men OTT Platform: Netflix

The Railway Men Season: 1

The Railway Men Number Of Episodes: 4

The Railway Men Release Pattern: All episodes released together

The Railway Men Episode Duration: 60 minutes

The Railway Men Critic Review:

There’s a proficiency at work here. In the fictionalised retelling of a well-known industrial disaster, director Shiv Rawail, along with co-writer Aayush Gupta, maintains the gravitas of the tragedy that engulfed Bhopal in 1984, brings to the fore an unsung group of rescuers and elevates it by layering it with human relationships. Right down to a cheeky pair of orphans singing happily at Bhopal Junction and running away at the sight of stern Station Master Iftekaar Siddiqui (Kay Kay Menon) who hides his amusement at their antics.

It’s a regular railway station with myriad situations, orphans abandoned on platforms, a common occurrence. The communications have been down, Siddiqui’s assistant Prasad (Shrikant Verma) has been his usual casual self, procrastinating over the repairs. There’s an announcement that Express Bandit (Divyendu Sharma) is operating in these parts, watch out for him. 

Alongside is the callousness of the American bosses of Union Carbide who have swept under the carpet the lethal effects of a toxic chemical in the Bhopal factory. With their balance sheet in the red and reluctant release of funds, ill-trained staff man the premises, the negligence mounting. Kamruddin (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) is an anxious manager, competent enough to know they’re dealing with a ticking bomb.

Seamlessly mixing fiction and reality,the life of railway men and the work they do comes out well with many little tracks to keep it moving. Shiv brings in the Sikh genocide of 1984 that was set off by angry Congress workers in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and Rajiv Gandhi’s unfeeling justification, “When a big tree falls, the earth will tremble” is played on TV. It happened just before the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, so when Shiv takes it aboard the Gorakhpur Express that’s heading for Bhopal, it’s in keeping with the political climate of the day. The tension of averting a railway disaster with three trains moving on the same track adds that bit of excitement to the rescue operation. 

Tracks fraught with tension and main players stepping in as and when a situation arises, are well written, dispensing with routine flashbacks. Shiv does press the rewind button to detail the forces that were aware of the poisonous gas in the Bhopal factory. He uses rewind to also express the anguish of young Imad Riaz (Babil Khan), keen to expose the criminality of the Union Carbide bosses. Just a flash or two suffice to establish Siddiqui’s traumatised past and why he must go beyond self to rescue the gas-hit.

The entry of Rati Pandey (R Madhavan) is timed well and the faint hint of his friction with Director-General Rajeshwari Jangley (Juhi Chawla) does away with the need to elaborately spell it out. It is these little touches that give polish to the four-episode limited series, along with cinematography (Rubais) and a background score (Sam Slater) that move with the mood.

An array of watchable actors brings credibility to every prominent player. Kay Kay Menon leads the charge with his now trademark competence as a man who can say a lot without much dialogue. R Madhavan’s presence makes Rati, the man who’ll go out of his way to pull off a rescue mission, entirely believable. And Juhi Chawla gives dignity and elegance to Rajeshwari. Her last line to the sarkari boss about doing her job is just so well delivered.

Babil Khan is well cast as the young man with a conscience. By now we’re used to Dibyendu Bhattacharya’s ease at playing a man unafraid to do what’s right. After Mirzapur, Divyendu Sharma is totally at home as the rakish Balwant Yadav who also rises to the occasion. Prasad too gets a second chance to correct his earlier carelessness. Raghubir Yadav and Mandira Bedi on the Gorakhpur Express efficiently showcase the insanity of genocide alongside the humanity of those who go the extra mile to protect the victimised.

If there is something to quibble about it would be about two points. One, except for an introductory reference to a government-sponsored plane that flew main culprit Warren Anderson of Union Carbide out of the reach of Indian courts, there seems to be a reluctance to openly name the Indian Prime Minister who facilitated that great escape. Two, since the fourth episode has unnecessary maudlin moments like a song for the orphans where a tear would suffice to establish the heartrending loss, perhaps each episode could’ve been shorter for overall crispness.

However, the spotlight on the despair, the magnitude of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy which affected pregnant women and the birth defects of their newborns, the shortage of experienced hands in handling the dead and the injured with a corpse coming to life before the last rites, serve to document the industrial-scale disaster of 1984. 

Above all, the long overdue recognition of the unsung warriors who put responsibility above self to save lives, tugs at the heart. The writing, the making and the performances turn a serious tragedy into an engrossing show.

The Railway Men – Watch Or Not?: Reward the so far unrecognised railway men by watching and cheering them.

The Railway Men Review Score Rating: 3 out of 5 (i.e. 3/5)

The Railway Men Official Trailer:

The Railway Men Official Trailer (Credit: Netflix India)

Also Read: Tiger 3 Review: An Ageing Not Engaging Roar

Multi-track Human TragedyThe Railway Men Review: Multi-Track Human Tragedy