YRF,s latest historical tragic drama, “The Railway Men,” tells the heroic actions of railway workers during the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The four-episode Netflix series, directed by Shiv Rawail and written by Aayush Gupta, offers a thrilling, spellbinding narrative with a proper Indian filmy dramatization.
As the series opens, written facts about the Bhopal disaster are displayed, and in the background, sounds of people coughing and wheezing can be heard. This sets the tone for how serious the series will be. By quoting a powerful statement from Mahatma Gandhi, it takes a satirical turn towards the judiciary system of our country.
The entire series is inspired to tell the untold story of railway workers. The first episode introduces the responsible and dutiful Bhopal Junction station master, Iftekaar Siddiqui, portrayed excellently by Kay Kay Menon. Menon’s performance and subtle actions grounds the story in realism and connect very well. His character is haunted by guilt from a previous train accident, which makes him more responsible towards his duty. There are many heroes in the series who play equally important parts. Imad Riaz (Babil Khan), a recent addition to the railway, considers his city as family. Idealist journalist Jagmohan Kumawat (Sunny Hinduja) meanwhile publishes articles against UCIL. There is also the character of the dacoit Balwant Yadav (Divyendu), a man with wrong intentions who eventually does right things in the end.
However, these characters with star faces – who become the unsung heroes – are written in a very old stylized way. Also, the depiction of the series of events follows an old dramatized approach. The tension builds from the outset, creating a thrilling atmosphere that engages the audience with the question of “how” the events will unfold.
The second episode introduces new cast members, including R. Madhavan as Rati Pandey, Juhi Chawla as Rajeshwari Janglay, and Raghubir Yadav as the station master. The series excels in giving each star a fair share of heroic sequences, contributing to an engaging storyline. Beyond the gas tragedy, the narrative weaves multiple tragic stories, adding depth and drama. These stories include a girl aspiring to be an IAS officer, her mother (Sunita Rajwar), who works in the railway, struggling to arrange funds for her daughter’s marriage, a group of girls returning from a swimming competition, and Imad’s family coming from Gorakhpur mail to Bhopal Junction.
These individual stories, crafted around the gas blast incident, contribute to the dramatic intensity. Additionally, the inclusion of historical events like the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the subsequent riots against the Sardars enhances the overall thrilling experience without detracting from the central incident. In this aspect of writing, it is commendable for seamlessly weaving these events into a single thread by creating a cohesive narrative.
The performances of the actors are commendable, with Babil finding the perfect place in his age bracket, Divyendu playing in the same filmy way, which feels refreshing amid the tension-busted series. Raghubir Yadav delivers emotionally charged scenes, and Nivedita Bhargav steals the spotlight with a relatable performance. Also, Sunita Rajwar showcases her versatility by portraying a character without the comedic elements she is known for, thus adding depth to the series.
The treatment of the series, while somewhat old-fashioned in its dramatic style, effectively uses elements like a lullaby in the background to underscore the horrific consequences of the incident. There’s also filmy dialogue exchanges before sacrificing their lives, and sudden awkward scenes where Juhi Chawla and R. Madhavan start to talk about their past love life.
It is certain that the whole experience of watching the series wouldn’t lose the attention of the audience because of the familiar template. But that’s precisely why the show never elevates above that, as it lacks in approach and depth to stand out.
The Railway Men is streaming on Netflix.