Netflix has recently unveiled a gripping four-episode series titled ‘The Railway Men’, earning critical acclaim and securing a renewal for an additional season. This latest offering from the streaming giant not only shakes audiences out of complacency but also prompts profound reflection, lingering in the viewer’s mind long after watching. Surpassing its predecessor, ‘Kaala Paani’, in terms of craftsmanship, ‘The Railway Men’ stands out as one of the finest web series of the year.
The series, featuring prominent actors such as Kay Kay Menon, R Madhavan, Divyenndu, and Babil, delivers a narrative that transcends the ordinary. While the posters highlight these four actors, the title of the show belies the fantastic performances from every cast member. Notable names including Dibyendu Bhattarcharya, Sunny Hinduja, Juhi Chawla, Raghubir Yadav, Mandira Bedi, and Philip Rosch contribute to the series’ overall excellence. The synergy of a tight screenplay and brilliant direction propels ‘The Railway Men’ into a league of its own.
Clocking in at approximately an hour per episode, the four-part series wastes no time in plunging viewers into a high-octane narrative. The storytelling is direct, with each scene hitting viewers right in the heart. The makers hold nothing back, confronting government officials, the owner of the carbide factory, and the government itself, laying blame on those responsible from the very beginning.
As the plot unfolds, viewers are presented with a ticking clock, symbolizing an impending catastrophe in the city of Bhopal—a fatal gas leak that will cover the city within a matter of hours. Against this backdrop, three ‘Railway Men’ are introduced: a train ticket collector (Menon), an ex-truck driver turned Railway worker (Babil), and a con masquerading as a policeman (Divyenndu). The fourth man, the General Manager of Railways (Madhavan), enters the scene after the action is already underway.
From the outset, ‘The Railway Men’ maintains a relentless pace, ensuring that even in the realm of OTT content, viewers won’t dare touch the pause button. The narrative keeps audiences on edge, fostering a sense of suspense and urgency despite their awareness of the unfolding events. Some sequences are so emotionally intense that the faint-hearted may find them challenging to digest. The simplicity of the sequences serves to convey the horrors of the tragedy in a profoundly realistic manner.
The strength of the series lies not only in its narrative but also in the top-notch performances of the cast. Kay Kay Menon, known for his brilliance, shoulders the show with a commanding presence. Divyenndu, portraying a cheeky character shaped by life’s challenges, rises to the occasion inspired by Menon’s character. Madhavan, as the General Manager of Railways, navigates sudden challenges with ease and delivers a compelling performance.
However, the standout performer is undeniably Babil. The young actor, entrusted with the responsibility of carrying forward the legacy of his father, the late Irrfan Khan, shines in his role. Unlike his previous limited roles in ‘Qala’ and ‘Friday Night Plan’, ‘The Railway Men’ provides Babil the opportunity to showcase his potential. His character, Imaz Riaz, is smart and determined to reveal the truth about the carbide factory, and Babil handles the depth of the character with finesse, mastering the accent effortlessly.
Sunny Hinduja, playing a journalist seeking the truth, adds another layer of authenticity to the series. His character, drawn from a real person, highlights the importance of documenting the horrors of the mishap. The ensemble cast, including Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Juhi Chawla, Mandira Bedi, and Raghubir Yadav, deliver impeccable performances despite limited screen time.
Director Shiv Rawail deserves commendation for maintaining control over the script. While the series introduces several tropes, they seamlessly blend into the narrative, ensuring a well-paced and effectively edited production. Rawail adopts an old-style storytelling approach, presenting impactful sequences at the beginning of each episode to provide context and insight.
In conclusion, ‘The Railway Men’ is an intense and unmissable watch. Once viewers begin, the series becomes unpausable, demanding attention and engagement. Beyond its entertainment value, the show serves as a stark reminder of persistent issues within society. While ‘Kaala Paani’ brought back memories of the pandemic, ‘The Railway Men’ prompts contemplation on how, despite four decades passing, essential lessons remain unlearned. Many in India still grapple with the effects of poisoned gas, raising questions about accountability. This series is a must-watch for those with the stomach to digest hard-hitting sequences, offering a compelling and thought-provoking narrative. ‘The Railway Men’ is available for streaming on Netflix.