Rati Pandey & Rajeshwari Janglay In ‘The Railway Men,’: Is Rati Based On Real-Life GM Gauri Shankar?


The Railway Men, directed by Shiv Rawail, made us privy to some extraordinary individuals who put everything at stake for the cause of humanity. It is not an easy task to risk everything you have to help people you don’t even know. Rati Pandey and even Rajeshwari Jangley didn’t have anyone from their own family stuck at the Bhopal junction, and just like their colleague and superiors, they could have turned a blind eye towards the entire fiasco and sat in their home comfortably with their family. But we are glad that he and others like him didn’t do that, and it was because of their efforts that a lot of lives were saved on that fateful day. So, let’s find out what role Rati Pandey played during the Bhopal gas tragedy and if his character is based on a real-life person or not.

Spoiler Alert

Was Rati Pandey based on a real-life person?

The character of Rati Pandey, played by R. Madhavan, was based on a real-life person named Gauri Shankar, who was the GM of the Northern Railways at the time the tragedy happened. We have been privy to the kind of heroism that Madhavan’s character pulled off in the series The Railway Men, but it astonished us to find that Shankar actually did that in reality. He left to help the people stuck at the Bhopal junction on his Inspection Special train. Gauri Shankar not only risked his life that day, but he also went against the orders of his superiors, as shown in the Netflix series. It was because of his bravery that a lot of lives were saved. As a nation, we are proud to have such heroes who were ready to give it their all, not care about themselves, and showcase such selfless behavior when the need arose.

Juhi Chawla’s character, Director General Rajeshwari Janglay, on the other hand, was not based on any one specific person, but she symbolized all those people in the ministry, in the railways, and in other positions who didn’t care about their jobs and careers but did the right thing as they didn’t want their consciences to get tainted with guilt.

How did Rati Pandey get to know about the Bhopal tragedy?

Rati Pandey had a reputation for not following orders, and people higher up the food chain believed that he was the kind of man who didn’t understand the dynamics of the system. The system was flawed and corrupt, and anybody in the post of General Manager was expected to blend in and be reasonable in his approach. By reasonable, we mean that they turn a blind eye to things that were wrong, find a scapegoat if and when the scandal was way too big to be hidden, and not try to make things perfect. But Rati Pandey was built differently, and one could say that he was not practical enough to understand the nitty-gritty of the corrupt system. For him, either things were right or wrong, and he didn’t care if his actions put his job in jeopardy. He knew that it was his actions that caused problems for him, but he was not ready to change his ways and means. He was as stubborn as a mule, and on that fateful night of December 2, 1984, the people of Bhopal needed a non-conformist who would put everything at stake and become their savior. Rati Pandey paid a surprise visit to the Itarsi junction, and when one of the officials told him that he couldn’t connect with the Bhopal station, he had an intuition that something was terribly wrong there. Rati Pandey, at this moment, got in touch with his superiors, and he got to know the tragedy that had happened in Bhopal. For a moment, he couldn’t think of what he should do next, but then he came to the conclusion that time was of the essence, and being the closest to the Bhopal junction, he was not just going to just sit there and wait for the relief train to come and do its duty.

Why did Rajeshwari Janglay decide to quit her job?

Rati Pandey’s ex-partner was Rajeshwari Janglay, and she was the Director General of the railways. Rajeshwari knew that what Rati was doing was right, but at that time, she wasn’t able to take such a bold stance and often felt subdued in front of her bosses. She hadn’t been able to help Rati’s cause back in the day, and she felt a lot of guilt because of it. She was seeing what was happening in Bhopal, and she was conveying it to her bosses. Everybody just wanted to opt for a convenient approach where they were not accountable for any lapses occurred. Nobody cared about those innocent people who were stuck at the Bhopal junction, and it boiled Rajeshwari’s blood from within. When Rati Pandey disobeyed the orders and finally reached the Bhopal junction, Rajeshwari was told by her superiors to give some names so that the ministry could get some scapegoats and absolve themselves from any accusations that they were very sure would be made at a later stage. Rajeshwari gave her own name and told her superior to pin all the blame on her, as she didn’t want any upright officer to lose his job just because the ministry was incapable of accepting its own faults. Rajeshwari loved her job, and she had a lot of respect for the work her team did. She took the fall herself and hoped that the sacrifice she made would bring about a change in the perspective of the spineless officials.

Why did Rati Pandey disobey the orders of his superiors?

Rati Pandey was stopped at a station before Bhopal, and he was told that there were orders to not let him reach his destination. Rati Pandey had a lot of people with him who had volunteered to help the cause, and after assessing the situation, he came to the conclusion that no order was going to stop him from providing relief to those in need. He knew that he was the only hope that Station Master, Iftekaar, and others stuck with him had, and he didn’t want to disappoint them. He knew that he might end up losing his job, but still, he was not ready to just sit and watch all the people die. Obviously, the thought that he would end up losing his job must have scared him, but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to live with the regret that he could have reached Bhopal and provided relief, but just because he wanted to serve his own selfish interests, he had stayed back. Rati Pandey and Rajeshwari had a conscience, and they realized that if they didn’t take a stand and help their own people, then nobody would. They led from the front and set a great example. Rati Pandey reached the Bhopal junction at the end of The Railway Men and provided relief to all those in need.

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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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