Amidst all the characters in The Railway Men that were inspired by real-life people, the character of Balwant Yadav, also known as Express Bandit, was entirely fictional. The director of the series, Shiv Rawail, included him in the narrative just for the thrill and drama to keep the audience hooked. The debate over whether it was necessary to include the character of Balwant Yadav can go on, but I personally found it to be well scripted, even though it didn’t have the manner of impact one would have wanted. For me, Divyenndu Sharma’s character, solely from a screenwriting perspective, brought a much-needed balance to the scheme of things. Characters like Iftekaar, Imad, and Kumawat brought with them an undying sense of righteousness, but here was a man infamously known as the Express Bandit who had solely come to the station because he knew that a huge amount of cash was stored in the vault.
At times, when a person witnesses the eternal truth of life, there are some changes that happen in his core, and without even them knowing about it, their perspective changes. Something similar happened with the Express Bandit, and adversity convinced him to become ethical in his approach and, for once, think beyond himself.
Why did Balwant Yadav help Iftekaar?
It was all over the local news that a man called the Express Bandit used to board trains and rob the passengers. The railway police were on high alert as the frequency of the robberies had increased over the past few months, and the police didn’t have any sort of clue as to who could be behind them. Iftekaar Siddiqui met Balwant Yadav, aka the Express Bandit, when he was posing as an RPF constable and stopping the workers from keeping some packages on the train. Balwant told Iftekaar that he had gotten the intel that the Express Bandit would strike at the junction that very day. Iftekaar called him inside his office, but that’s when the gas leak happened; people started dying, and there was widespread chaos. Balwant was a focused man, and all he cared about was stealing the cash that he knew was there in the vault, but the situation was so terrifying that even he, for a moment, forgot why he had come there in the first place.
There were homeless kids on the station platform, and looking at them, Balwant was reminded of his own childhood. He had been abandoned by his parents in a similar manner, and he had to face a lot of hardships in those tender years. The two children were brothers, and Balwant had a chat with them, fascinated by the fact that they were so full of life. Balwant was sitting with the station master when he saw Ratlu, the elder brother, standing outside the office holding his brother in his hands. For a moment, neither Iftekaar nor Balwant could understand what had happened, but within a few hours, they realized that a poisonous gas had leaked from the Union Carbide factory. Together with everybody present on the platform, Iftekaar and Balwant went inside the waiting room, and they closed the doors so that they could at least breathe.
Iftekaar’s selfless attitude and righteousness brought about a change in Balwant’s perspective. Here he was, just trying to fend for himself, and in front of him was the station master, who didn’t care if he lived or died as long as he was able to save each and every soul present on the station that day. Balwant asked Iftekaar many times why he was risking his life for such ungrateful people. Balwant knew the system well, and he was aware of what generally happened with people like Iftekaar. He knew that, at most, the station master would get a medal, and then he would go back to his mundane life. Balwant realized that this man was probably not doing it to win accolades but solely because he didn’t want humanity to lose that night. There were times in The Railway Men when Balwant found it extremely ridiculous how Iftekaar and even Imad didn’t care about their lives. He pitched the idea to them very subtly a couple of times, but seeing their resolve, he came to the understanding that they would die fighting but never leave the battlefield. Balwant Yadav stayed back first because he didn’t get any opportunity to escape, and somewhere Iftekaar’s righteousness made his conscience prick him to not abandon his post, especially for his comrades who trusted him with their lives.
Why did the express bandit not escape with the cash?
During the ending of The Railway Men, Balwant Yadav felt that Iftekaar had died, and so did his moral compass with the righteous man. Balwant once again became the express bandit and took the keys from Iftekaar’s pocket. He didn’t like it, but now that the people he cared for had died, it didn’t matter to him if what he was doing was ethical or not. He stole the cash, and then later, the police officers came and found out that the cash was not present in the vault. Balwant overheard a conversation where the officials were blaming the station master for stealing the cash and escaping. Balwant felt a pang in his heart, and he got extremely agitated. He saw the kind of sacrifice that the noble men had made, and now, instead of celebrating the legacy of the man, his reputation was being tainted. Balwant realized that he would have to keep the cash back if he wanted Iftekaar’s reputation to not get tainted in society. Balwant went and kept back all the cash he had stolen before Rati Pandey came for inspection. He just took one currency note as a memoir to remember the night, which seemed like an extremely horrifying nightmare.
One year later, Balwant Yadav came back to Bhopal Junction to meet Iftekaar Siddiqui, and he not only told his real name but accepted that he had every intention of stealing the cash from the vault. Both of them had a cup of tea, reminiscing about the time that they spent together. Adversity had bonded them, and their relationship was going to last for a lifetime.