Rating – 3 stars on 5
The Bhopal gas tragedy that occurred in 1984 killed around 4000 people (officially) and seriously injured around half a million. Though the Union Carbide factory was shut down in 1986, the consequences of that horrendous event are even felt today by those living there. The Railway Men – The Untold Story of Bhopal 1984, streaming on Netflix, brings to the audience the story of the railway workers who ended up saving thousands of lives by their actions in December 1984. Trying to narrate a real-life tragedy in the form of a web series is not easy but YRF Entertainment has tried to do so with director Shiv Rawail at the helm.
The four episodes run nearly an hour long each and begins with the night of December 2, 1984, just hours before the gas leaks occurred. We meet station master Iftekaar Siddiqui (Kay Kay Menon) and his protégé, Imad (Babil Khan), and get to know their life stories. Then in comes a thief posing as a railway protection cop (Divyenndu) and their life takes a horrific turn as night falls. Tragedy unfolds as people start dropping like flies and animals collapse and communication lines go down at Bhopal Junction. As the night wears on, R Madhavan, a top railway official, and Juhi Chawal, a top bureaucrat, come to the rescue of the people.
As we watch The Railway Men, we can see the influence of the 2019 HBO series Chernobyl. Unfortunately, the story-telling is not realistic but overly dramatized where we just see people just dropping down and frothing and struggling to breathe at weddings and on the streets. A lot of the usual tropes have been included to try and connect with the audience emotionally – a bunch of kids from the slum, a pregnant woman, a courageous railway guard, a communal riot and so on. The Americans who play the company officials are quite unconvincing as actors too. The back-and-forth storytelling is a little jarring though.
However, the performances of the cast – Kay Kay Menon, Bail Khan, Divyenndu, R Madhavan and Juhi Chawla – are strong. And it is this that makes us watch the web series. The Railway Men is not perfect but it tells the world of this tragedy which India can never forget and which the people of Bhopal are still paying for.
Rating – 3 stars on 5