‘The Railway Men’, starring R Madhavan and Kay Kay Menon, has recently premiered on Netflix. The series opens with a brief coda following the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the world's worst industrial disaster. Within the series, we encounter Station Master Iftekaar (Kay Kay Menon), the recent recruit Imad (Babil Khan), express bandit Baldev (Divyenndu), and Rati, the General Manager of Railways (Madhavan).
Taking us back a few hours before the tragedy, the initial episode starts with the events leading up to the gas leak and the surrounding circumstances, offering viewers a nuanced perspective on this pivotal moment in history.
While watching ‘The Railway Men’, one can't help but draw parallels with the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. The progression of events mirrors the intensity seen in Chernobyl, and surprisingly, it works well.
The series neatly cultivates curiosity and tension, fascinating the audience, despite the foreknowledge of the impending tragedy.
A notable feature of the series is its efficiency in getting straight to the point without unnecessary detours. Kay Kay Menon takes centre stage, delivering a rousing performance that anchors the show. His character, the station master, encapsulates the spirit of countless individuals who prioritized saving others over their own well-being. Madhavan makes a sudden entry midway through the series, portraying the fearless general manager of the railways.
He valiantly heads to Bhopal Junction, where a gas leak has occurred, accompanied by a group of workers. Babil Khan deserves commendable applause for his character Imad, handling the role with precision and delivering a flawless performance with a lot at stake.
Simultaneously, a separate narrative unfolds involving a Sikh woman and her son, targeted by extremists seeking revenge for Indira Gandhi's death. However, the multitude of characters and subplots diminish the prominence of the gas tragedy, as the focus shifts to various other elements.
The initial impression from the first two episodes leads us to believe that the series revolves entirely around the tragedy. However, in the third episode, the focus shifts significantly to various other storylines. This prompts a serious comparison with Chernobyl, where the plots share similarities, but Chernobyl consistently maintains focus on the central tragedy. As 'The Railway Men' progresses, despite subplots, the gravity of the situation feels somewhat lacking, leaving the audience expecting more serious developments on screen that never materialize.
However, the series remains thrilling, connecting with the audience's empathy for the tragedy's victims. The heartfelt desire for the victims to overcome their plight is palpable. Without giving too much away, the storyline involving a pair of brothers takes a heartbreaking turn, leaving viewers shattered. Yet, as a nation, the resolution of this tragic episode brings a sense of relief that it is finally behind us.
The series excels in its attention to minute details, a factor that contributes significantly to its success. Even without drawing comparisons to Chernobyl, the series does stand out as decent. The combination of the familiar incident and stellar performances, especially by actors like Kay Kay Menon, ensures that the series retains its strength.