I am not the ideal reviewer because I am too close to Bhopal. I have seen every documentary and most of the photos taken. I was standing beside the photographer when some of the pictures used in the series were taken.
I was excited when I heard that a series about Bhopal was going to be released on Netflix, and I watched The Railway Men with anticipation because my favorite actor’s son had a central role, and I wanted him to succeed. Babil, as Imad Riaz, is great. He spoke with a theet Bhopali dialect and acted really well.
I wish the writers had focused more on some of the individuals and their lives, showing more of the essence of the city I know so well.
There were some very powerful moments in the series that brought tears to my eyes, especially when Babil spoke about his friend based on Ashraf Khan, the real-life worker killed in 1981. Babil was his best friend, and I knew the family of the real Babil, whose name was Chand mia.
When I saw the disabled boy, I wasn’t shocked because that is the reality of Bhopal, and people are living it, still suffering illness and disease due to the gas, still being poisoned by water made toxic by Union Carbide’s negligence.
The thing is that The Railway Men has stirred the new generation, unfortunately, it has also brought out those looking for narrow political point-scoring, reducing a tragedy of a thousand crimes, and counting, to the single event of Anderson’s flight from India.
This is partly the result of the narrow focus of the series, whose narrative is restricted, barring one scene, to a few days in 1984. There have been 14,000 days of neglect, injustice, and suffering since, and some viewers may be left mistakenly thinking that history’s worst industrial disaster is just history. Bhopal has a beginning but no end.
I appreciate watching Menon’s work again, and Juhi Chawla was excellent as ever. I felt that some of the subplots were not necessary. It took away from the gravity, necessary for the main story.
The production house made a decision not to communicate with the survivors’ organizations or the families of the brave people the story is inspired by. A shame, as they would have learned that the incredible courage they celebrate, taking place over a few hours, has been mirrored across the city each day over four decades in the simple act of surviving in impossible personal circumstances and still caring for others in pain, having been abandoned by all those holding a duty of care.