The Railway Men review: An intensely staggering tale of courage and valour.
What: The Railway Men – Poison in the air, courage under fire
The Railway Men synopsis
2nd Dec 1984.The date reminds us of the horrific Bhopal Gas tragedy that shook the nation when it claimed around 15000 lives in the capital city of MP. The Union Carbide plant that poisoned the air with the highly toxic and fatal Hydrogen Cyanide gas exhaled from its MIC unit gave harrowing moments of survival under the clutches and also few unsung heroes who braved to save the lives of the victims.
The Railway Men, inspired by true stories and helmed by debutant director Shiv Rawail (son of veteran director Rahul Rawail), one of YRF’s homegrown talents, is a four-episode series set against this backdrop of the Bhopal Gas Leak, the world’s worst industrial disaster. The Railway Men showcases the unshakeable courage of the employees of Indian Railways and their efforts to save countless lives during the city’s darkest hours.
Rawail creates a staggeringly ominous sense of loom within the first few minutes. The dread is visible in the eyes of Siddiqui (an infinitely talented Kay Kay Menon), the diligently dutiful assistant station master in charge of the Bhopal Railway Station who faces the crisis of his life when the crowd goes berserk the moment it gets to know about the gas leak from the plant which is a stone’s throw away from the plant. He relies on the newly inducted rookie, Imad Riaz (the growing talent, Babil Khan) who has suffered miseries at the jinxed plant, operating under the callous and megalomaniac American honchos. Then, there is a Railway Bandit (played by Divyenndu) who is addressed as Constable by Siddiqui, who undergoes a transformation to emerge as a saviour at the behest of the tragedy.
The prime protagonists are never seen together in one frame (as I was expecting it to be) but their characters and souls flourish through the incredible journey of valour, achieving a surefooted emotional resonance. At the helm is Kay Kay Menon, delivery the most powerful performance in the series. He shines with the nuances and makes you care for him when he is fighting and gasping for breath against all the odds. Babil is another actor to watch out for. His vulnerability and brooding eyes remind you of the legend of Irrfan. It was surreal for me to reminisce that three of them – Maddy, Kay Kay and Irrfan had starred together in Nishikant Kamat’s Mumbai Meri Jaan in 2008 – another film cantered on a disaster. Divyenndu regales with this brilliant spontaneity and natural charm. His scenes with KK are really entertaining – a sigh of relief in the cauldron brewing with tension of urgency. Pleasing appearances by Raghuvir Yadav, Mandira Bedi, Sunita Rajwar, Mushtaq Khan and Sunny Hinduja as Jagmohan Kumawat - the journalist adds more human touch to the gripping tale of survival under the octopus wings of death.
I go with 4 stars out of 5 for Railway Men. Its unsettling, unnerving but at the same time, deeply and profoundly inspirational.
The 4-Part limited series, which is a creative collaboration between Netflix and YRF entertainment streams on Netflix from 18th November 2023.