Movies And Trains: Of Landscapes, Journeys And Stories


The romance between trains and films has being going on since time immemorial.  The lives of the characters are intricately weaved around trains and the railway platforms. Several lives are lived, various phases are experienced, love blossoms, hatred thrives and the train becomes an internal character itself. In other words, it is impossible to imagine movies without trains. And trains without movies.

Who would have thought that trains could be pushing films and scripts on their paths to success and recognition? In Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the epic love story in Indian cinema, the hero and the heroine meet in a train in Europe. They are reunited in a train. Would you ever forget the legendary run made by Simran towards Raj, trying to get on the departing train he is in and then journeying away to a loving and beautiful life with her beau?

Had Shahrukh Khan not danced on the top of a moving train with a group of dancers and singers in Dil Se, the song chaiya chaiya, in my opinion, would have never made the list of chart-busters. It was a total hit and the train was able to secure its position in the fantasies of millions of women across the nation.

The foundation of the story of Chennai Express was laid in a Chennai bound train. Different motives, different destinations, different purposes, different cultures and one train. The two protagonists meet, fall in love, fight for their love and ultimately come out victorious- all of this in a train named Chennai Express.

The story of Mehrooni, a short film directed by Faraz Ali, is also written keeping a train journey to the center of the plot. It is during a train journey that a newly-married couple’s relationship grows, deepens and finds new meanings through a Maroon coloured sweater. Even when one of the partner dies, the love of that ordinary couple lives on through the maroon sweater and in that train journey; a local train’s journey, a daily commute.

Referred to as the cult classic in Bollywood cinema, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local revolves around two people who miss their last Mumbai local at 1.40 am and how their lives change forever that (un)fateful night. The protagonist starts his day with just Rs 70 in his pockets and a few hours later, with Rs 2.5 crores in his hands and a beautiful girl by his side, his life takes an unexpected turn only because he missed the last train home. The absent presence of the train in the film is quite unique and crucial to the story’s plot.

Let’s now go back a few decades and talk about a famous Bollywood action thriller The Burning Train. As the name suggests, a train is the central point to the plot of this film. The passengers of this train embark on a journey which changes their lives for good (or for bad). The burning train, Super Express which catches fire on its inaugural run from New Delhi to Mumbai, brings its passengers closer to each other in times of heart-wrenching tragedies and tough times. A devout Hindu priest, a royal king, a smuggler fleeing with stolen diamonds and his girlfriend, an undercover police officer, an ex-Army colonel, two stowaways, a school teacher with a group of students and many more resolve their life’s tribulations in ways unexplained and unbridled during this train journey.

Foreign movies which lack the song and dance sequences use trains more creatively and uniquely. Does the mention of a particular 9 ¾ platform at the Kings Cross train station ring any bells? Hogwarts Express was every child’s ticket to the magical school of Hogwarts. Not only does the trio meet each other for the first time in the train, but their friendship strengthens multifold during the train journeys. Hogwarts Express is all about the ‘first time’. It is where Harry meets his love interest Chang for the first time, where he sees Voldemort in his true form for the first time and has a deathly encounter with Dementors too. Needless to say, the series was and is incomplete without Hogwarts Express and Hogwarts Express wouldn’t have existed without the wizardry school.

In 2008 mystery horror-thriller film, The Midnight Meat Train, the protagonist in an attempt to track down a serial killer “Subway Butcher” discovers more and beyond anyone’s imagination under the city’s streets. Evidently, it’s not just love that trains are capable of illustrating; they are also a symbol of horror, suspense and repulsion.

A train is not just a mode of transport. It is an assortment of its passengers’ feelings and their lives. For passengers, however, a train could be just a train, or it could be something more.

For some people, it is not the destination, but the journey which matters most. The journey which makes a difference; which changes their lives. And what better way to project these beautiful emotions than through films?

Image Source: The Viewspaper