‘The Railway Men’ series review: A bracing, wishful saga of bravery

R Madhavan in ‘The Railway Men’

The Railway Men opens with a short coda in the immediate aftermath of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak tragedy, which killed over 15,000 people and is considered the world’s worst industrial disaster. A reporter, played with rugged tenacity by Sunny Hinduja, watches from afar as Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson is first detained on his arrival in India and then, only a few hours later, flown out of the country in a government-sanctioned plane. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” the journalist wryly quotes Gandhi, in voiceover, wondering what such ideals of forgiveness and non-violence mean anymore in a country where the perpetrators of mass slaughter tend to get off scot-free. It’s a loaded reference to make in the context of a disaster that literally blinded hundreds of people from chemical exposure.

There are many ways to begin a show like The Railway Men, with its expansive factual scope and multitude of characters. Thus, it’s telling that director Shiv Rawail, making his debut at YRF Entertainment, would decide to lead with this scene. In a way, it honours the decades of public anger and resentment over Bhopal before telling—as disaster dramas tend to do—a story of hope and civilian courage. Evidently inspired by the acclaimed 2019 miniseries Chernobyl, this 4-part show on Netflix recreates a grim historical tragedy through the eyes of its warriors and emergency responders. In this case, it’s a set of employees of the Indian Railways who conduct a daring rescue operation to save a fraction of the population after highly toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas escapes from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the night of December 2-3.

Iftekaar Siddiqui (Kay Kay Menon) is the honest and scrupulous stationmaster of Bhopal Junction railway station. Ten years ago, he was involved in a tragic derailment and is haunted by guilt and trauma. Greying and bespectacled, Iftekaar is going over his nightly ledgers when he observes a commotion on the platforms. Passengers coughing, foaming at the mouths, dropping dead in heaps. Though it’s unclear to him in this instance, poisonous gas from the nearby chemical plant has filled the entire city air. On the advice of Balwant (Divyenndu Sharma)—a thief disguised as a Railway Police Force (RPF) constable—Iftekaar assembles the surviving passengers in the waiting room of the station and seals off the doors. Later, with some assistance from loco pilot Imad (Babil Khan), a new recruit, he attempts to contact the nearest junction, asking them to stop the inbound Gorakhpur Express from reaching Bhopal and also send a rescue train.

The Railway Men (Hindi)

Director: Shiv Rawail

Cast: Kay Kay Menon, R Madhavan, Babil Khan, Divyenndu Sharma, Sunny Hinduja, Juhi Chawla, Dibyendu Bhattacharya

Episodes: 4

Run-time: 50-60 minutes

Storyline: After a deadly gas leak at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal in 1984, employees of the Indian Railways spring to the rescue of the stranded populace

Dramatically, Iftekaar’s message doesn’t reach. Nevertheless, Rati Pandey (R Madhavan), the idiosyncratic General Manager of the Central Railways, picks up on the signs of the unfolding crisis. His first action is to phone Delhi for help—his former partner, Rajeshwari (can Netflix please find full-length roles for Juhi Chawla?), is on the Railway board. The series contrasts the efforts of these brave and selfless railwaymen—and women—with the rampant greed and negligence that led up to the leakage in Bhopal. We learn that the safety controls at the Union Carbide factory were in violent disorder, corporation higher-ups in the US having written off the loss-making pesticide plant in India. The series skirts around the possibility of how the plant—already flagged as hazardous—was allowed to operate in a densely populated area. The central and state governments largely come off clean, both before and after the leak; all we get is a mention of bureaucratic indecision and a brief scene of police corruption.

Of course, with the setting being the winter of 1984, there are other poisons in the air. Indira Gandhi has recently been assassinated; the country is engulfed in retributory anti-Sikh violence. Rajiv Gandhi’s famously chilling line—’when a big tree falls, the earth shakes’—is echoed in a scene where a couple of Sikh passengers encounter rioters on a moving train, and are rescued by a conscientious guard (Raghubir Yadav). Before the rioters get on, several of them chant, “Indira ke hathyaro ko, jaan se maaro saalo ko (Indira’s killers deserve to die)“, echoing a political dog whistle of recent times. There are other contemporary reflections in the series, especially of Covid times: people tying kerchiefs as facemasks, mass burials and cremations, Iftekaar warning his townsfolk not to jump to unverified conclusions.

Kay Kay Menon plays the ageing, watchful stationmaster with a beautiful mix of sternness and empathy (his subordinates lovingly call him ‘Sir Sahab’, a double honorific). Kay Kay has witnessed a career resurgence on streaming; coincidentally, one of his earliest films, Bhopal Express (1999), was backdropped on the same tragedy. R Madhavan and Divyenndu get colourful, if limited, roles, and render them well. Rawail dresses the grand production in sickly hues of green, gray and yellow. Cinematographer Rubais’ camera moves with a doomy inevitability. The weird angles and the enthusiastic camera spins left me feeling physically dizzy—even if the makers were going for maximum immersion, it’s not the best experience to offer viewers watching up close on a small screen.

Iftekaar, Imad, Rati… several of the characters in The Railway Men have a personal cross to bear. It, in turn, steels them in their moment of truth. That a number of its heroes are Muslim, and so were many of the victims of the 1984 tragedy, is left unstressed (at least verbally) in the series. Instead, the show turns, perhaps a bit wishfully, to the oneness of the Indian Railways and the Bhopal people at large. “Yeh meri basti hai, mera seher hai (this is my slum, my city),” Imad says early on. He fails to save it all by the end, but he dies trying.

The Railway Men is currently streaming on Netflix.


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Odisha Train Accident: Salman Khan, Jr. NTR, Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra and others express grief over the tragic collision : Bollywood News – Bollywood Hungama

Indian celebrities on Saturday took to social media to express their sadness over the tragic train accident in Odisha. As per the latest report in NDTV, at least 238 people were killed and more than 900 injured in the horrific collision between three trains. The officials have said that this is the country’s deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years. The accident occurred between Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a goods train on Saturday. The rescue operations are currently underway. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced one-day state mourning. Meanwhile, PM Modi, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Jr. NTR, and Sunny Deol among others are mourning the loss of lives.

Odisha Train Accident: Salman Khan, Jr. NTR, Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra and others express grief over the tragic collision

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Distressed by the train accident in Odisha. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon. Spoke to Railway Minister @AshwiniVaishnaw and took stock of the situation. Rescue ops are underway at the site of the mishap and all possible assistance is being given to those affected.”

















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Jio Studios Announces 62 Indian Movies and TV Series: The Full List

Jio Studios has unveiled its expansive lineup of new movies and web series, marking the single largest slate ever produced by an Indian studio. While the production company notes over 100 fresh projects in its lineup, it has only teased 62 for now, spanning several languages and genres, and starring the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, R Madhavan, Kriti Sanon, Shraddha Kapoor, Randeep Hooda, and more. None of them has any release details for now, but they will be spread evenly across theatres and direct-to-app (OTT). Jio Studios also dropped a sizzle reel for its upcoming movies and shows, with all content expected to eventually land on the JioCinema app.

“We are in the most exciting and eventful phase of Indian entertainment, with storytelling taking centre stage in an era of explosive digital disruption,” Jyoti Deshpande, President, RIL Media and Content Business said in a prepared statement. “We have actively partnered with some of the best names in the business and newcomers alike to reach this day, when a staggering and exciting 100 content assets have been produced, ready to be showcased to the world. Our vision is to power stories that are from, by and for India and Bharat, tell stories that not only entertain but also have a purpose, partner with storytellers in every Indian language and take these stories mainstream.”

Leading the lineup is Rajkumar Hirani’s (3 Idiots) Dunki, which is reportedly based on the concept of donkey flights — a method used by Indian immigrants to illegally move to foreign countries. The film is slated to release this year and stars Shah Rukh Khan and Taapsee Pannu in the lead roles. It also marks the first collaboration between Khan and Hirani, the latter of whom is known to incorporate dark comedy in his films. Meanwhile, Shahid Kapoor (Farzi) has two films lined up from Jio Studios.

Up first is Bloody Daddy, an Indian adaptation of the 2011 French film Nuit Blanche — or Sleepless Night — where a police detective gets off on the wrong foot with a drug dealer, causing his son to get held as a hostage. The film will reportedly release on Jio Cinema. Then there’s an untitled romance film with Kriti Sanon, brief glimpses of which can be seen in the sizzle reel.

Dinesh Vijan’s absurd horror-comedy universe is being expanded with sequels for both Stree and Bhediya, bringing back the original cast members. 2022’s Bhediya saw Varun Dhawan as a werewolf looking to navigate his newfound powers while trying not to devour his close friends. The film’s mid-credits scene tied into 2018’s Stree, which followed Shraddha Kapoor as a witch who hunts unsuspecting men at night. We’ve also got the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Section 84, Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan-led Zara Bachke, and Hisaab Barabar, in which R Madhavan appears to be playing a lawyer.

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Randeep Hooda in a still from Inspector Avinash
Photo Credit: Jio Studios

Nana Patekar makes his OTT debut with Laal Batti, a political thriller helmed by Prakash Jha (Gangaajal), whereas Randeep Hooda appears in Inspector Avinash, which charts the real-life super cop Avinash Mishra’s struggles against the rise of crime in 1997 Uttar Pradesh. Even Indian rapper Raftaar is making his debut in a streaming series with Bajao, which seems to be a unique blend of hip-hop culture and street crime, set against the backdrop of disco lights at a club.

Jio Studios is set to dominate in the regional space as well, offering movies and TV series in multiple languages including Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, and what the press release calls ‘South’. It also announced a multi-year collaboration with SVF Entertainment to create a ‘new era of blockbusters’ in Bengali cinema.

Jio Studios upcoming movies

Dunki — from Rajkumar Hirani, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Taapsee Pannu
Bloody Daddy — starring Shahid Kapoor
Untitled Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon film
Bhediya 2 — starring Varun Dhawan
Stree 2 — starring Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao
Section 84 — from Ribhu Dasgupta, starring Amitabh Bachchan
Hisaab Barabar — starring R Madhavan and Kirti Kulhari
Zara Hatke Zara Bachke — Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan
BlackOut — starring Vikrant Massey
Mumbaikar — starring Vijay Sethupathi
The Storyteller — starring Paresh Rawal & Adil Hussain
Dhoom Dhaam — starring Yami Gautam and Pratik Gandhi
Empire — from Vijay Lalwani, starring Taapsee Pannu
Trial Period — starring Genelia D’Souza
Bhagwat: Chapter One: Raakshas — starring Arshad Warsi
One Friday Night — from Manish Gupta, starring Milind Soman and Raveena Tandon
Sumo Didi — starring Shriyam Bhagnani
Happily Ever After
Rumi Ki Sharafat
The Film That Never Was
I Love You
Sarvgunn Sampann — from Dinesh Vijan, starring Vaani Kapoor
Kacchey Limbu — from Shubham Yogi, starring Radhika Madan
Khwaabon ka Jhamela
Pooja Meri Jaan — from Navjot Gulati, starring Mrunal Thakur and Huma Qureshi
Sector 36 — from Dinesh Vijan, starring Vikrant Massey and Deepak Dobriyal
Ghamasaan — starring Arshad Warsi
Boo — starring Manjima Mohan and Nivetha Pethuaraj
Kun Faya Kun — from Kushan Nandy, starring Harshvardhan Rane and Sanjeeda Shaikh
Aachari Baa
Amar Prem Ki Prem Kahani
Ikroop — from Ali Abbas Zafar
Jo Tera Hai Woh Mera Hai
Four Blind Men (Marathi)
1234 (Marathi)
Kharvas (Marathi)
Kaata Kirrr (Marathi)
Khashaba (Marathi)
Baipan Bhari Deva (Marathi)
Bachubhai (Gujarati)
Chaandlo (Gujarati)
Ghulam Chor (Gujarati)

Jio Studios 16 upcoming series

Laal Batti — from Prakash Jha, starring Nana Patekar and Sanjay Kapoor
Union: The Making of India — starring Kay Kay Menon and Ashutosh Rana
Inspector Avinash — starring Randeep Hooda and Urvashi Rautela
Rafuchakkar — starring Maniesh Paul
Bajao — starring Indian rapper Raftaar
The Magic of Shiri — starring Divyanka Tripathi
Doctors — starring Sharad Kelkar
A Legal Affair — starring Barkha Singh and Angad Bedi
Ishq Next Door — starring Abhay Mahajan and Natasha Bharadwaj
Do Gubbare — starring Mohan Agashe and Siddharth Shaw
Hajamat — Sanjay Mishra and Anshumaan Pushka
UP65 — starring Rishabh Jaiswal and Satyam Tiwari
Kaalsutra (Marathi)
Eka Kaleche Mani (Marathi)
Aga Aai Aho Aai (Marathi)

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