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‘The Railway Men’ Honest Review- When Tragedy Births Humanity

by Mansi Gadre   ·  5 months ago   ·  
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The Railway Men is the story of humanity in the face of the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Here’s an honest and raw review.

 

Let me start with this. Railway Men is raw, unrelenting, and unrestrained in its portrayal of the disaster and the brute feelings that it evokes. Ride the train of this human catastrophe and experience a cathartic sense of renewal.

I love my Diwali without any surprises. So, we did what we normally would do – enjoy get-togethers, visit family and friends, have long dinner conversations at the huge dining table at my parent’s home, play cards, and stay up well past midnight talking about nothing in particular. It was during one of these midnight conversations that the topic of the Bhopal Gas tragedy came up. My father, being a chemical engineer himself, knew about the incident in detail, and his narrative got me interested to know more. As the festive season wound down, I decided to watch ‘Railway Men’, released on 18th November on Netflix.

So, on Saturday, after I returned home from my parent’s place, I decided to continue my late-night routine for one more day. I watched the untold, disturbing story of the terrible tragedy and spent a traumatic night thinking about it. 

What is the story of The Railway Men?

The Railway Men is an honest attempt to present the truth about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984. It honours the courage of heroes who risked their lives to save thousands of people. This much-awaited Shiv Rawail series has a promising star cast with Kay Kay Menon, R. Madhavan, Babil Khan, Juhi Chawla, Sunny Hinduja, Mandira Bedi and others. 

The story opens with the factual details of the incident. The death of over 15,000 people. This tragedy is considered the world’s worst industrial disaster.

An earnest journalist played by Sunny Hinduja watches hopelessly as Union Carbide chairman, Warren Anderson is flown out of the country after the disaster. 

He says – ‘Sach toh yeh hai ki is desh main Dandi ke namak aur khadi ke kapde se kam daam main kuch milta hai toh woh hai aam aadmi ki zindagi’ (The truth is that  – In this country, if there is anything that is cheaper than the Dandi salt and khadi clothes, it is the life of the common man) Here he refers to the safety of people being compromised in a nation with Gandhian ideals of tolerance and non-violence. 

A Shift in Tempo

The scene shifts to the hours before the gas leak where the main characters and their background stories are portrayed. Station master Iftekaar Siddique played by Kay Kay Menon is a man of principles and is haunted by the memory of a child he couldn’t save. He hires a young and smart ex-carbide worker, Imaad, played by Babil Khan who is eager to share the truth about Union Carbide with the journalist. There’s also a thief, known as Express Bandit, who positions himself as an officer in Bhopal just before the tragedy. It would be interesting to watch how these characters develop. And how their lives cross each other in the aftermath of the incident.

Throughout the first episode, there are remarks about the dangers of the factory which flouted all safety norms to save pennies at the cost of human lives. There are references to the habitual small leakages, lack of training provided to workers, faulty equipment, lack of repairs, death of a worker, and the Tyson safety report of 1982 which clearly highlighted the deficiencies in safety standards.

The drama is heightened by a couple of young, shoe-polishing orphans singing Bollywood songs, a wedding procession moments before the leak, a smooth-talking con man eyeing the cash at the station locker, and the smooth routine of a city blissfully unaware of the impending doom. 

The episode which starts with a historical backdrop moves swiftly to the climax – the events leading to the eventual leak of MIC gas – where the episode ends. 

Is The Railway Men a True Story? 

The series states in the opening credits that ‘this is a work of fiction, inspired by real events’. It is an engrossing account of the incidents that led to the Bhopal gas disaster through the eyes of civilian warriors and emergency responders. 

On 2nd December 1984, Bhopal turned into a gas chamber. This happened when 40 tonnes of Methyl-isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the Union Carbide factory. Most of the people who lived in the ‘basti’ closest to the factory died immediately that night. The coming days saw overflowing hospitals with people suffering from burning eyes and constricted chests. 40 years later, the effects are still visible in people suffering from cancer, neurological disorders, and respiratory illnesses. 

Is It Worth Watching The Railway Men? Honest Impressions

The Railway Men is a powerful story that honours the anger of Bhopal towards the murderous greed of corporations before talking about human courage and hope. It lives up to my expectations. Although I can guess how the story might unfold in subsequent episodes, I couldn’t help but skip to the next episode. Kay Kay Menon’s underplayed performance as a scrupulous and honest station master looks promising. He is stern but empathetic at the same time making him vulnerable and endearing. The music and cinematography do justice to the inevitability of the fateful night. The use of grey, blue, and green in the production design gives it the required sickly, grim expression. 

‘Hum ek aise desh mai rehte hai jahan na jaan lene walon ko saja deta hai, na toh jaan bachane walon ko shabashi’ (We live in a country that doesn’t punish people who take lives and doesn’t reward people to save them) forms the underlying statement of the 1st episode of Railway Men. The catastrophe has unfolded and it’s time for heroes to rise. For me, that’s reason enough to watch the second episode. Apart from the fact that R. Madhavan is yet to make his entry…….

What I Felt After Watching The Railway Men?

After a feel-good Diwali, The Railway Men shook me…Enough to pen down my honest thoughts about a story that is not just tragic but also inspiring. It is a lesson for all of us that safety should precede greed as disasters do not discriminate. It is ironic that often a calamity is the birthplace of humanity.

I went through a wave of several emotions while watching the subsequent episodes of Railway Men – shock, fear, anticipation, elation, and relief.

In Conclusion – The Railway Men Is a Thought Provoking Saga of Bravery 

The Railway Men brings to you a story of humanity and unity in the face of a terrible disaster. 

The 1st episode builds up the characters and the background of the eventuality. It clearly communicates that the dangers of the factory were already known to the officials and people at large. Bhopal was sitting on a time bomb and once again it was the common man who suffered and saved. It is a courageous story of a dark history that deserves a watch.

Where Can You Watch All Episodes of The Railway Men?

The series is currently streaming on Netflix. The web series has 1 season with a total of 4 gripping episodes of about an hour each. 

 

Author : Mansi Gadre

Mansi finds solace in exploring new horizons and loves to weave tales that talk about travel, parenting, and life’s myriad experiences. A marketer, teacher, content writer, and above all a mother, she will take you on a journey of discovery guided by the wisdom of an educator, the curiosity of an artist, and the soul of a wanderer.

4 Comments

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