A tale saturated with death and devastation, ‘The Railway Men,’ the Hindi Netflix drama show, charts a thrilling narrative about Bhopal’s Tragic Gas Leak in 1984. On the night of December 2, a deadly accident at Union Carbide’s industrial plant led to the leakage of MIC, a destructive chemical that turns the entire city’s air toxic. However, when chaos overtakes the streets, a Stationmaster at Bhopal Junction Railway Station, Iftekaar Siddiqui, emerges as a selfless, heroic leader who tries to steer his people away from destruction.
In his remarkable quest, Iftekaar finds invaluable help from another railway employee, young Imad Riaz, alongside a peculiar Constable, Balwant Yadav. Together, the trio attempts to keep people out of harm’s way at the platform while trying to communicate with nearby stations to minimize damage. As a result, Railway GM Rati Pandey rallied a band of courageous railway workers who risked their own lives to provide aid to thousands of victims. Nonetheless, the ticking clock and stammering bureaucracy may just halt the process long enough to deliver a terrible death to everyone stuck at the station, including Iftekaar and Imad. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Is Imad Riaz Dead?
Imad Riaz begins his story as a bridge into the inner workings of Union Carbide. As a former truck driver for the company, the man is knowledgeable about the MIC chemical stored within the factory and the dangers it poses. Furthermore, the young man lost his closest friend, Mohammed Ansari, to an avoidable accident that left his wife widowed and kids orphaned. Therefore, Imad is well aware of the volcano brewing inside the walls of the factory and even attempts to unveil its truth to the world.
Nevertheless, Union Carbide’s volcano erupts before Imad’s collaboration with reporter Kumawat bears any fruit. On his first day of the job at the Bhopal Junction as a locomotive pilot, the Gas Leak occurs, quickly spreading to the railway station and its distant repair shed, where Imad is located. As such, while the toxic air spreads over the city and the station, taking numerous lives, Imad finds shelter inside the train engine he recently repaired.
Yet, it isn’t long before Imad travels to the station platform in his engine, where he finds a group of survivors hanging on by a delicate thread thanks to Iftekaar, the Stationmaster. The other man has managed to corral a number of people inside the waiting hall with Constable Balwant’s help. However, due to the intensity of the situation, the people inside are antsy and minutes away from erupting into riots themselves.
Thus, the trio immediately gets to work, trying to contact other stations to send relief trains and prevent regular passenger trains from entering the city. The Gorakhpur Express is one such train, carrying Mohammed’s family as they make their way to Imad. Consequently, the stake elevates for Imad even more. Imad already knows he has lost his family, who live closer to the plant and have likely already succumbed to their demises.
Therefore, Imad only cares about saving his people— the Bhopal residents— and the Ansari family. Eventually, they come up with a plan to attach a freight car to Imad’s engine to build a makeshift vehicle for them to flee. Nevertheless, something malfunctions, rendering the train useless. Multiple things happen at once then: the Gorakhpur Express continues with its course while GM Rati Pandey also travels toward Bhopal Junction, disregarding the chain of command and bringing relief supplies to the city.
Although they wanted to prevent Gorakhpur Express’ entry to the station, Iftekaar decided to use it to their advantage by hooking the train with their carriage to help the survivors flee. Yet, the same puts the Gorakhpur train and Rati’s GM Special from Itarsi in line for a collision. As such, Imad rushes to the tracks to pull the lever that will switch the train’s courses.
However, the immense exposure to the toxic air takes its toll on Imad’s body, undeterred by the flimsy wet cloth over his mouth. Furthermore, the young man has already subjected himself to increased amounts of the MIC due to his constant brave undertakings. As a result, Imad’s body finally gives out after he successfully pulls the train track lever. Although the young man dies, he saves the Ansari family, alongside thousands more.
Is Iftekaar Siddiqui Dead?
Iftekaar Siddiqui, the Stationmaster of Bhopal Junction, plays an instrumental role in the survival of countless people passing through the railway station. Years ago, the man underwent a traumatic incident wherein a train he was in crashed down a bridge and into a river, killing several passengers. One of them, an eight-year-old boy, slipped right from under Iftekaar’s fingers, forever rendering him haunted by the memory. Consequently, the man lives with the weight of the experience, unable to find peace.
Therefore, when the gas leak occurs and Iftekaar witnesses numerous deaths, he can’t help but recall back to the time when he couldn’t save the boy’s life. Although the man carries the incident with him every day, it becomes tenfold during the crisis as he tries his best to gather others in a weak semblance of safety, even though he is just as clueless about the events as others.
Eventually, after Imad’s arrival, the Stationmaster begins to get a relatively firmer grip on the situation. Thus, with Imad and the Constable’s help, Iftekaar manages to bring medical assistance to the station. Still, by then, the man’s own condition had worsened. Like Imad, the Stationmaster also exposed himself to the outside air on increased occasions, sacrificing his own well-being for others. Nevertheless, he continues helping when the Gorakhpur Express arrives on the platform, and people start to flood out, oblivious to the grave situation.
After informing people of the air’s toxicity, Iftekaar helps others board the train before its departure. During this time, Imad’s family— the Ansaris— wander in the platform lost, with one of the kids on the verge of passing out. As such, Iftekaar rushes to her aid and performs CPR on her to revive her, despite knowing the toxic gas from her mouth will be his undoing.
In the end, Iftekaar saves the young girl, and the incoming relief trains ensure the survival of many people. However, Iftekaar fails to be one of them. Laying on the platform, the Stationmaster is as good as dead and declared the same. The next morning, when the relief teams have gotten the situation under more control, they pile dead bodies into burial and crematory grounds.
During this time, Iftekaar’s son comes looking for his father, with the air finally safe enough to travel again. Even though the son’s spirits are dampened, having to look for his father among the dead, he still dutifully searches the ground. Nonetheless, a blessing befalls the family as Iftekaar jolts back to life when people try to carry his dead body for rites. As it turns out, the man wasn’t really dead and still had a very low pulse that Balwant failed to notice before assuming the other man was dead. The same thing happened to a bunch of other people, who similarly regained consciousness surrounded by dead bodies.
Iftekaar is understandably shaken but calms down a bit after reuniting with his son. Thus, the Stationmaster’s story ends with the man alive and well, still serving in the Railway station a year after surviving the dreadful night and saving countless lives.