Imad Riaz In ‘The Railway Men,’ Explained: Is He Based On A Real Person? Is Imad Dead?


Selflessness is the greatest virtue, and The Railway Men made us privy to a handful of people who showed us why it is said so. Be it the stationmaster, Iftekaar Siddiqui, or the loco pilot, Imad Riaz, had they not shown courage and humanity on that fateful night, the death toll would have risen even more. Nobody told Iftekaar or Imad to risk their lives, and be the saviors, but their conscience just didn’t allow them to abandon the people and fend only for themselves. They were well aware of the fact, probably more than anybody else, that the outcome wouldn’t be favorable for them, but still, they walked towards death unhinged and unfettered and showed the world that you don’t need a cape to be a hero. Imad was a young man, but he was mature beyond his age, and it was overwhelming to see someone risk their own life for people they didn’t even know. So, let’s find out how Imad found himself at the Bhopal station on the night of December 1, 1984, and why he put his life at stake and helped the station master evacuate the junction.

Spoiler Alert

Is Babil Khan’s Character Based On A Real Person?

The character of Imad Riaz is not really based on one specific person, but it could be said that he represented all those unsung heroes who were present there at the Bhopal junction on the night of the tragedy and who didn’t care about their own lives and gave it all to save the lives of the innocent passengers who were stranded there. The journalist Rajkumar Keswani, who had come to know of the safety lapses happening in the Union Carbide Factory, had published a couple of articles after the death of Mohammad Ashraf, who died after a minor gas leak in the factory. Keswani wanted to investigate the matter, and he knew that if he was able to get his hands on all the reports and confidential documents exchanged between the chairman, the board of directors, and the local staff, he would be able to gather some evidence and prove his point. There were two ex-employees, Bashirullah and Shankar Malviya, who agreed to help Keswani get what he wanted. In the series, we saw that Imad Riaz, too, was an ex-employee, and he said that he was fired when he questioned the higher officials about why they weren’t provided with any safety gear when the chemicals they were frequently in contact with were highly hazardous. It could be said that Imad’s character symbolically represents Bashirullah and Malviya, as well as the railway station staff who were there to help the real-life Iftekaar Siddiqui, i.e., Ghulam Dastagir.

What did Imad know about Union Carbide?

We saw Shazia, wife of Mohamad Ansari, for the first time when her husband was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition due to a minor gas leak incident that had happened in the year 1981, three years before the Bhopal gas tragedy took place. Shazia’s character is inspired by a real-life person named Sajda Bano, who lost her husband, Mohammad Ashraf, and this catastrophe was reported by Keswani in his newspaper, Rapat. In the series, it is shown that Imad Riaz came to know what was happening in Union Carbide first through his own experiences, and he got even more clarity after the death of his friend Mohammad Ansari. Imad knew that no safety protocols were followed by the factory and that they were risking the lives of the innocent people who were working there. When Imad requested his seniors give him some protective gear as he was literally scared of driving the truck filled with hazardous chemicals, not only was his plea turned down, but he was also fired from the company. Imad knew that in the Tyson Report, it was clearly mentioned that the company was not taking safety measures and was putting the lives of the entire city in danger. Imad wanted to take revenge on these American capitalists, who kept their own employees in the dark and used them for their own benefit. Imad decided to help Kumawat, but before he could do anything, the gas leak happened, and Imad found himself stuck in a chaotic and horrifying situation.

Why did Imad risk his life to save people?

Rati Shankar said in The Railway Men that he was a foolish man because he was going into an area that he knew was contaminated, and he was going to risk his life because he didn’t want a guilty conscience. Imad had a similar belief. He said that the people who were dying were his own people. He was ready to put his life at risk to find evidence against Union Carbide, and when the time came, he was ready to sacrifice himself to save the lives of the hundreds of passengers that were present at Bhopal Junction. Imad could have escaped, or he could have stayed inside the engine and not come out of it. But not only did he come to help Iftekaar, but he gave it his all. The feeling of self-sacrifice overpowered every fear that Imad had, and together with Iftekaar, Express Bandit, aka Balwant Yadav, they pulled off an unimaginable feat.

How Did Imad Riaz Die?

During the ending of The Railway Men, we saw that Imad had somewhat realized that he wouldn’t be able to come out of it alive. He had the responsibility of making sure that the two trains, i.e., the GM Special and the Gorakhpur Mumbai Express, did not collide with each other. He was successful in the mission as he was able to pull the lever and change the track of one of the trains at the very last moment. Imad was exposed to the poisonous gas, i.e., the MIC, and he died on the track itself.

Imad’s character might not have been based on a real person, but he symbolized the courage and valor shown by a lot of people that day, whose contributions never came to light. Through Imad, Shiv Rawail paid homage to the unsung heroes of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and made us realize that if it had not been for them, hundreds of others would not have seen the light of day.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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