Is Balwant Yadav AKA Express Bandit Based on a Real Thief?

Shiv Rawail’s Netflix Hindi historical drama show, ‘The Railway Men,’ delves into the real-life tragedy that followed the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal. With multiple narratives at play, the show depicts the deadly chaos that consumed the city streets as the night air turned to poison. Bhopal Junction, the nearest railway station from the Union Carbide factory, turns into a delicate, paper-thin shelter where the Stationmaster, Iftekaar Siddiqui, tries to find a way to save as many lives as possible.

In his heroic undertaking, Iftekaar finds help from a mysterious Constable who is really a famed thief, Express Bandit, in disguise. However, the man’s personal secrets diminish in the face of the greater evil, compelling the man to selfless bravery. In the midst of upstanding railway workers, Bandit Balwant Yadav occupies a unique space that effortlessly invites curiosity. Thus, viewers must be wondering whether or not the elusive criminal fits into the historical true story that inspired the show’s narrative.

Balwant Yadav Is a Work of Fiction

Although ‘The Railway Men’ is a dramatization of a real-life tragedy, Balwant Yadav’s character is purely a fictional detail added to the story in service of the theme and narrative. Balwant is introduced to the plot as the Express Bandit, wanted by the police for his notorious thieving and train robbery streak. In fact, moments before the catastrophic leakage at the industrial plant, the criminal makes headlines for stealing from a Minister aboard the Delhi Bombay Rajdhani.

As a result, due to his growing infamy, Balwant, better known as the Express Bandit, finds it difficult to continue with his ways once the local police get their hands on a sketch of his face. For the same reason, the Bandit decided to pull one final job, which brought him to Bhopal with more than 10 million in their account. Consequently, the man arrives at Bhopal in a police uniform, attempting to trick the Stationmaster, Iftekaar Siddiqui, into letting his guard down, granting him easy passage to the money.

Nevertheless, the gas leak and the impending doom that follows effectively throw a wrench in Balwant’s gluttonous schemes. This storyline adds a certain thrill to the show, especially during the initial build-up. Furthermore, it also serves as a clever tool to establish period-appropriate references to cement the show’s historical setting.

In the early 1980s, train robberies were at a clambering rise in India, said to have “institutionalized Indian outlawry.” While these robberies were often more elaborate and even violent than Balwant Yadav’s one-man thievery, the latter’s presence within the show still harks back to a relevant aspect of train travel at the time.

Divyendu Sharma’s Personal Connection To The Bhopal Tragedy

Even though Balwant Yadav’s character is a fictitious element, the man continues to hold a level of authenticity consistent with the rest of the show. The same is in part due to the well-researched screenwriting by Aayush Gupta and Director Rawail’s focused creative vision. Likewise, actor Divyendu Sharma, who essays the role of the Express Bandit, also brings his own sense of realism to the character.

When discussing the show, Sharma revealed how the show’s script and the trusted behind-the-scenes team drew him to the project. Similarly, his character’s drastic and compelling character arc also piqued the actor’s interest. Balwant stands out against his fellow railway men as an outsider, both in terms of locality and morals. Therefore, his development over the course of four episodes and a handful of intense in-universe hours is bound to attract the audience’s interest as it did the actor’s.

Furthermore, Sharma also shared the personal connection he holds to the entire incident at large. “One of my close friend’s father was at the Bhopal station that night,” said Sharma in an interview. “He didn’t survive, but I have heard stories from my friend. It made so much sense for me to come on board for this because it is an important tale for our times.”

Read More: The Railway Men’s Real Story: Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Explained