The Railway Men marks stunning entry of YRF into web series

Kay Kay Menon, Divyenndu, Shrikant Verma and Babil Khan in The Railway Men. Photo: YRF / Netflix

Fifty years after their first film, Daag, hit the screen, YRF forays into a web series that is as sparkling, if not more, than their debut film. The Railway Men chronicles the selfless roles played by railway officials when the city of Bhopal was wracked and its life almost wrecked by a toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide plant in 1984.

It showcases with cruel detailing how a mix of callous American officials and a few indifferent Indian politicians led the town to a dance of death for 15,000 innocent men, women and children, and how a small bunch of committed human beings, almost all from the Indian railways in and around Bhopal, kept the number of fatalities from swelling into multiples of that figure.

Obviously dramatized and fictionalized, the series (in four but long episodes of around an hour each) unravels the horrifying facts and shows the huge quantum of tragedy that shook India. Worse, the matter remains largely unresolved in bringing the culprits to book and holding them accountable almost four decades down, thanks again to our legal loopholes and unmoved political setup that prevailed for decades even after the horrible tragedy.

The characters, real, imaginary or dramatized, are remarkably etched and Shiv Rawail, director Rahul Rawail’s son, makes an electrifying debut as director after serving as an assistant on films like Dhoom:3. The sensitivity that underscores the graphic story and visuals of this drama marks him out as the finest talent to come out not only from YRF but also in the directorial space in at least the third decade of the millennium. The viewer must understand the role of the director in this unnerving but true story while appreciating the actors and every other aspect!

Also a co-writer, Rawail delineates the evil from the noble and also highlights the grays with a consummate maturity, giving us lovable and unforgettable characters like the con-man, Balwant Yadav (Divyenndu in his career-finest essay after Bichhoo Ka Khel and now placing that performance at a distant second!), Kay Kay Menon as Iftekhar Siddiqui, the idealistic station master, R. Madhavan as Rati Pandey, the red-tape-smashing general manager of the West Central Railway Zone, and Babil Khan as Imad, the rookie loco pilot.  All these formidable talents make us believe in them as characters, and since the reel and real life distinctions are blurred as many of them did or do exist in reality, the performances are truly phenomenal.

Divyenndu, Babil Khan and Kay Kay Menon in The Railway Men. Photo: YRF/Netflix

The supporting cast is no less, however, and standing tall among them are Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Kamruddin, Sunny Hinduja as Kumawat, the headstrong journalist, Raghubir Yadav as the conscientious train guard, Shrikant Verma as railway official Ishwar Prasad, Sunita Rajwar as the humble Vijaya, and the two young boys who are brothers, especially the one who sings. This child has an amazing voice and singing ability (I did not find his name) and can easily be a major singing force in the years to come.

The superb script plays out the drama with some really exceptional background scoring by Sam Slater, aided by terrific cinematography (Rubais) and intelligent editing (Yasha Jaidev Ramchandani). The production design is beyond amazing, with the recreation of the station and more showing how YRF has spared no expense to give us something exceptional.

But with all the scintillating technical aspects, the beauty of these series is that the soul is supreme, and the key sequences that are special highlights are something I will not share here as they have to be experienced—the ‘dialogues’, facial expressions and body language included, by the viewer.

This perfect series deserves a perfect rating.

Rating: *****

Netflix presents YRF Entertainment’s The Railway Men  Executive Producers: Aditya Chopra, Uday Chopra, Yogendra Mogre & Akshaye Widhani Directed by: Shiv Rawail Written by: Shiv Rawail, Aayush Gupta & Vishwas Dhingra  Music: Sam Slater Starring: R. Madhavan , Kay Kay Menon, Divyenndu, Babil Khan, Sunny Hinduja, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Philip Rosch, Denzil Smith, Raghubir Yadav, Mandira Bedi, Connor Keene, Sunita Rajwar, Manish Wadhwa, Shrikant Verma, Nivedita Bhargava, Rahul Tewari, Mushtaq Khan, Anurag Arora, Annapurna Soni, Bhumika Dube, Thanu Khan, Aditya Shukla, Priya Yadav, Sawroop Khan, Riddhi Bharadwaj, Armaan Bhanushali, Sp. App.: Juhi Chawla Mehta & others




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