In depicting the build-up and immediate aftermath of the grave tragedy that struck Bhopal in 1984 due to a damning gas leak in a Union Carbide factory, the Netflix Hindi show ‘The Railway Men,’ looks at the issue from multiple perspectives. While the focus remains on the railway employees at Bhopal Junction, such as Stationmaster Iftekaar Siddiqui and Imad Riaz, the narrative also brings outside voices of Railway General Manager Rati Pandey into the fold in significant measure.
Situated miles away in Itarsi, Rati happens to be in the right place at the right time. Thus, he utilizes his authoritative and courageous disposition to rouse workers from nearby stations to help their fellow citizens through their terrible demise in Bhopal. However, when the GM realizes the need for a swift reaction, complicated government interference threatens to slow him down. That is where Rajeshwari Janglay, a DP Personnel at the Rail Ministry, comes in, lending a hand in whatever capacity she can. Since ‘The Railway Men’ presents a tale of historical significance, viewers must be curious if these two characters, instrumental to the plot, have any basis in real life.
Rati Pandey’s Connection to Reality
Rati Pandey is partially based on a real person. Although the show brings a real-life story to the screen, highlighting the 1984 Bhopal Disaster, it maintains a level of separation from reality by equipping a fictionalized lens. As such, while the events depicted within the show remain true to real life, many of the details explored within those events have been fabricated by the show’s creators in service of the plot. Nevertheless, most of the characters, including R. Madhavan’s Rati Pandey, have a basis in reality that feeds into their fabricated storylines.
Thus, real-life inspirations continue to linger, leaving a touch of authenticity and realism. Certain instances that historically unfolded during the Bhopal Tragedy can be connected to Rati Pandey’s storyline. As the General Manager on a routine inspection at Itarsi, Rati finds himself in the unique position of having the means to send relief teams to Bhopal through the rail lines.
In real life, a similar instance occurred when the railway workers 90 kilometers away from Bhopal, at Itarsi, made their way to the city with food and medicine. Likewise, the authorities at the Bhusaval Control Office decided to send out delegations of relief teams by train, delivering doctors and paramedics to the ground. Therefore, by grasping the situation’s gravity in time and facing adversity head-on for the benefit of others, several railway employees were able to save countless lives.
Furthermore, according to the show itself, one specific railwayman, Gauri Shankar, the Northern Railways General Manager at the Jhansi station for inspection by chance, occupied a similar role as Rati’s in the real-life relief response to Bhopal. Therefore, it’s likely that Director Shiv Rawail and screenwriter Aayush Gupta came across Shankar’s story in their research and based Rati’s character on the same. As such, the General Manager’s character mines inspiration from real life with many points of similarities to be noted.
Rajeshwari Janglay’s Connections to Reality
In the same vein, Rajeshwari Janglay’s character is also a work of fiction. However, her basis in reality is more dwindling than her partner, Rati Pandey. Within the narrative, Rajeshwari provides an insight into the political wheels that turned behind the scenes during the Bhopal Tragedy. Therefore, her storyline, accompanying Rati’s, showcases the hesitant approach that the authorities took in their relief response.
As such, Rajeshwari’s inclusion in the narrative keeps the show well-rounded and calls attention to the intense nature of the night of December 2nd and 3rd. In reality, the government has faced its fair share of criticism for its strategy in dealing with the terrible disaster. On the forefront of these criticisms lies the conspiracy of the Cyanide coverup, wherein the authorities discouraged doctors from treating Bhopal victims with medication useful for Cyanide poisoning.
A similar storyline finds its way into Rajeshwari’s narrative after she discovers a possible antidote for MIC and is promptly turned away by her superiors. Still, there’s no way to confirm if a similar event occurred in real life. Likewise, there aren’t any records of any DP Personnel taking the fall for the relief trains that were rushed to the Bhopal station before the government’s approval. As such, we can assume that Juhi Chawla’s character in ‘The Railway Men’ is largely a fictitious element.