Step into the Past with The Railway Men Review 

Railway Men
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Railway Men Cast: R Madhavan, Kay Kay Menon, Babil, Divyenndu.

Director: Shiv Rawail 

Watch this on: Netflix

The Railway men is a four-part series, which lasts around an hour each, gets started quickly and doesn’t waste any time. The filmmakers don’t hold back and deliver a heart-stopping sequence in every one. The makers hold the weapons against all those who are accountable from the start, including government officials, the owner of the carbide plant, and the government in his own country.

Even though the show is on OTT, it picks up speed immediately away and is so intense that you won’t be able to press the stop button. The show keeps you on the edge of your seat, and even if you know what’s going on, you’ll be holding out hope that humans, animals, and birds won’t suddenly die. Some scenes are so gruesome that they are incomprehensible to the weak of stomach.

The creators have made the tragedy’s horrors seem as genuine as possible by using straightforward scenes.

Things are portentously built up in the first episode. Stationmaster Iftekaar (Kay Kay Menon) is troubled by the memory of a kid he failed to save in a prior train tragedy. Imad (Babil Khan), a gifted young guy, is employed by him and placed in charge of the engine yard. One crore rupees, stashed in a locker at Bhopal station, is the target of a train robbery specialist and serial thief, Divyenndu. At the Union Carbide plant, safety precautions are insufficient, workers are ill-trained, and management disregards the cautions of supervisor Kamruddin (Dibyendu Bhattacharya).  

Most likely, The Railway Men used the 2019 HBO series Chernobyl as a template. However, the director Rawail might have gone closer to home for inspiration on how to stage a memorable occasion like this one. A wild ghazal performance cuts to the opening scene of Mahesh Mathai’s 1999 film Bhopal Express.

Only a few shots of the plant are shown, gloomy in the nighttime shadows. There is just one stream of smoke produced when the gas seeps from the pipes. The image of the factory’s fumes exiting is hauntingly gorgeous. We saw it sprawled over deserted streets, a cat attempting to elude the approaching cloud. A baby will cry when they wake up and will cough in fits and parcels. This is compared to Rawail’s staging of it.

We witness the devastating consequences of the gas on a marriage celebration following the death of Imad’s employer to set the scene. People were falling, vomiting, asphyxiating, and gasping everywhere. There is a tonne of dramatic pain instead of a single eerie image.

While it may make some viewers feel sorry for them, nothing compares to the terrifying claustrophobia of Sardar Udham’s Jallianwala Bagh segment (2021) or the unsettling, calm devastation of Chernobyl.

The Railway Men reminded me of Aashiq Abu’s excellent 2019 film Virus, which is about the Nipah pandemic, but with more clarity. The show is melodramatic and theatrical; a young child sings in remembrance of his deceased buddy, robbers experience a change of heart, and self-centered employees discover bravery.

Putting kids in risk is usually a sign that the creators don’t want to put in too much effort to appeal to viewers; in this case, four kids are at least in danger (or sacrificed). The performances fade in this intense heat. Babil Khan is an anomaly. He won’t be rushed and has a captivating manner of structuring his sentences. 

Imad, like all the Bhopal characters following the leak, is frequently shown with a handkerchief covering his lips, therefore it helps that his eyes are so expressive.

The most poignant moment in the entire show occurs when Iftekaar urges Imad to go home and leave the rest to him, to which the younger guy calmly and regretfully answers that his mother has passed away and he isn’t going anywhere.

An experiment is tried in the fourth episode of Railway men. In between sequences, real press photos and news footage from 1984’s Bhopal are intercut. This kind of switching requires a delicate touch, which is lacking in this instance since the grainy films and photos contrast too strongly with the impersonal appearance of the broadcast. A sequence of stills featuring filmed moments next to their original arrangement concludes the piece. However, imagination cannot be replaced by imitation. 

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