Director: Shiv Rawail
Cast: R. Madhavan, Kay Kay Menon, Divyenndu, Babil Khan, Sunny Hinduja, Juhi Chawla Mehta, Mandira Bedi, Raghubir Yadav, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Sunita Rajwar
Where: Streaming On Netflix
Rating: 3.5 stars
Offering an uncomfortable but an important perspective, the Railway Men goes on to deconstruct the truth behind the tragedy and the aftermath that transpired following the leak of a poisonous gas at Bhopal’s Union Carbide India Limited plant on the night of 2nd December 1984. Netflix India and Yash Raj Films combine forces to bring to light the horrors of the incident that is considered one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, till date, through the show. It also conveys how the loss of lives could have been averted, had concerned authorities paid heed to infrastructural issues. In telling us the truth, the show also chooses to highlight the selfless services of a few good men and women who risked their own personal lives and prospects to save a larger populace from succumbing to the deadly gas, even as lives around them continued to crumble like a pack of cards.
Directed by debutant Shiv Rawail, The Railway Men makes a brave attempt in constructing the episode by offering both perspectives before us. So, while we get to see the issues and the concerns raised by the employees of the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), we also are accorded a chance to learn about what were the commercial interests of the United States-led Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and why did they display a lack of empathy.
In between the two perspectives, stands a brave attempt at survival. Bhopal station master Iftekaar Siddique (Kay Kay Menon), new recruit Imad Riaz (Babil Khan), a stranded bandit Baldev (Divyenndu) and Central Railways General Manager Rati Pandey (R. Madhavan) must do what it takes to save as many lives as possible.
Aayush Gupta’s effective writing constructs the journeys of all characters concerned without resorting to over-the-top histrionics or drama. Sam Slater’s background score accompanying Rubais’ cinematography spells doom each time the focus shifts upon the factory and its adjacent localities. The visual of the methyl isocyanate gas emerging from a flare tower, looking at engulfing an entire city is one of the most haunting moments of the show.
The Railway Men certainly benefits from a great star cast put together. While the four leading actors are absolutely top-notch, you also have Sunny Hinduja who plays the truth-seeking journalist Jagmohan Kumawat with ease. Sunita Rajwar plays Siddique’s spirited colleague Vijaya, who’s getting her daughter married on the ill-fated day. Mandira Bedi plays Rajbir Kaur, a woman who must escape from succumbing to the anti-Sikh sentiments following the assassination of a former PM. Raghubir Yadav plays the Gorakhpur Express guard who puts his humanity above in the face of adversity. The solid Dibyendu Bhattacharya plays UCIL employee Kamruddin, who tries hard to put forth the grievances of the staff before UCC and pays a hefty price for it. And there’s Juhi Chawla Mehta, who plays the Railway Ministry bureaucrat Rajeshwari Janglay, a sincere but affirmative woman who must nudge her bosses to send aid and relief to lives affected in Bhopal.
The Railway Men is certainly not for the faint-hearted. But it walks the tightrope path in between recreating a horrific episode while celebrating an inspiring story of courage and grit.