The Railway Men is filled with characters who did everything in their capacity to make sure people were saved from the havoc that was unleashed in Bhopal. Set in the year 1984, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is dubbed the world’s worst industrial disaster. It killed 3,787 people and widely affected 700,000 citizens in and around the city. The disaster was caused by negligence on Union Carbide’s side, but The Railway Men is about a bunch of Indian Railway officers and workers coming together to save as many people as possible.
Rati Pandey (played by Madhavan) happened to be one of the senior officials working for the Indian Railways. As per officials at the Itarsi railway station, he was about to reach the station for an inspection. Unbeknownst to anyone, Rati Pandey was already in disguise, checking the work of the station master and other officials. He was the first to notice that the distress regarding Bhopal was being ignored by the officials. Rati, on the other hand, was walking around as a desperate man, asking for help from the station officials regarding this matter. He witnesses that no one is willing to help him. Rati quickly reveals his identity, to everyone’s shock at the station, especially the official who was not being helpful to anyone.
Rati was informed about the lack of communication from Bhopal, and he took the distress call seriously, unlike others around him. Just like Iftekaar, he was a steadfast official who believed in getting the job done and not wasting anybody’s time. As a senior official, he was perceived as a no-nonsense person who would not mind breaking the rules to get things done the right way. It is implied in the show that he has rubbed many politicians the wrong way, which has led to him entering the bad books of many high-profile people. Rati was worried about the situation in Bhopal and learned of the gas leak that had caused chaos in the city. He aimed to provide aid to Bhopal as soon as possible. As they had one of the biggest and fastest modes of public transport at their disposal, Rati was under the impression that the railway ministry would be the first to step in and aid him and move all the possible medical aid to the affected city.
Rati informed his closest associate, Rajeshwari Jangley, about the escalating situation. The team sitting in Itarsi with Rati only knew of the gas leak. Since there is no communication between the two towns, Rati is unaware of the situation at the Bhopal junction station. There is a history between Rajeshwari and Rati, as the former was asked to sabotage Rati’s career to pave the way for her promotion. From the conversation between the two, Rajeshwari was probably also responsible for an inquiry against Rati, which led to bitterness between not just the two but also other senior officials who refused to have any official conversation with him. Rati had hoped Rajeshwari would be able to help him, and she did. Their friendship and the fact that Rati is a committed employee with the railways made her want to give his ideas wings. After not getting any permission from higher authorities, Rati takes it upon himself to navigate a train filled with volunteers from Itarsi to help the people in Bhopal. He chose to defy the orders of his seniors because aiding people in distress was far more important than waiting for diktats from the central ministry.
Rati began his journey towards Bhopal even though they missed all the signals regarding the call from Bhopal to stop trains from entering platform 1. Rati’s emergency train was also stopped at another station just before reaching Bhopal because of the message from the ministry. There were strict orders to not assist Rati, and all the trains were to be diverted from Bhopal. The ministry was worried about the casualties that would increase if a team was sent to Bhopal because not many were aware of the cause of the leak. Since there was no antidote in hand, the railroads could not afford to lose their best men trying to be heroes. They wanted the situation to calm down, but Rati was aware there was never a right time to get to the city. He wanted to help as many people as possible get out of the city before it turned into a mass grave.
Rati was given the green flag to exit for the next station as well. His leadership qualities and heartwarming speech tugged at the hearts of the best people around him, and they agreed to be a part of his mission. Rati and Rajeshwari have one final conversation before he heads to Bhopal. It is finally revealed to the audience that both are married to each other, and they never let any personal work into the line of their work. This could be the reason why Rati’s career was on hold while Rajeshwari’s was soaring, but she was in two minds on how to move forward after the ministry initially mishandled the Bhopal tragedy.
Even though his train barely managed to enter Bhopal station by the last episode, Rati and his team were able to tend to people suffering medical emergencies. To Rati’s surprise, every train that was diverted from Bhopal decided to defy the orders from the ministry. They wanted to offer as much as they could to the people of Bhopal. Rati turned out to be a rebel, and his defying orders caused a positive revolution.
On reaching Bhopal, Rati was distressed to see the situation and the number of dead bodies they came across. They were able to help the survivors, and it took days for the air to clear. Rati was the black sheep of the whole lot and took it upon himself to make a difference when most of his colleagues and seniors gave up when they heard of the crisis. He had solutions in hand when many were cribbing about problems. He took charge and led from the front.