Drawing Parallels: “The Railway Man”

Last evening I watched “The Railway Man” (2014), a film based on the true story about this British officer, Eric Lomax from Edinburgh up north in Scotland, who at age 24 in 1943 was held PoW at a Japanese camp in the Far East. Inhumanly tortured while in the clutches of the Kempeitai until end October 1945, he suffered for several decades, long after his return to Britain, and after the war had ended. He was an avid railway enthusiast, almost obsessively so. In 1995, basically 50 years after those traumatic life-altering experiences during World War II, his autobiography was published. In the film, Lomax is portrayed as an engineer. Well, as a matter of fact, in 1939, Eric — all of 19 — had joined the Royal Corps of Signals!

Story: Eric Lomax | Screenplay: Andy Paterson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce | Director: Jonathan Teplitzky |
Actors: Colin Firth | Nicole Kidman | Jeremy Irvine | Hiroyuki Sanada | Tanroh Ishida | Sam Reid | Stellan Skarsgård (Stellar performances!)

Strange and far-fetched as it may sound, I just couldn’t help but think of Hindi film lyricist Anand Bakshi. Some segments of his early life cross my mind often, so here are some parallels. Long before our man reached popularity as song-writer, young Bakhshi, at age 14, had joined the Royal Indian Navy. Within two years, when the Empire was in free-fall after WW II, the uprising in the docks i.e. the Naval Mutiny of 1946 was essentially the hot-bed of revolt against Colonial power. Anand Bakhshi, from Rawalpindi (erstwhile North-West India)  participated in the Mutiny. This act of treason at the time, invited the wrath of the rulers, and he could have faced capital punishment, but ‘somehow’ (a story for another day) he had a narrow escape. He was ‘merely’ expelled from the Navy. The following year brought mayhem in the sub-continent, not unlike the atrocities of the Kempeitai which are likened to the infamous Holocaust in Europe. In the aftermath of India’s Partition, Anand Bakhshi joined the Indian Army, but now in what capacity? You bet… as Signal Man “Azad” in the Corps of Signals… for two years! Now wait… thereafter he attempted to find his place under the sun (oh, well… in “suneema-cinema“, but failed)… so Bakhshi was back in the Army and now, where did he join? He joined The Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (E.M.E.) when he was 21 and stayed on until 1956 when the film bug that had continued to bother him, he could bear it no more. That’s a long story that merits a biography.

Anand Bakshi was too busy writing film songs until he passed away on March 30th, 2002. He did not have time to pen an autobiography, alas… but he has expressed a myriad emotions through his songs… through characters in films –  men, women and kids — he lives on. Some of his most memorable songs are visualized on railway men, or using the train as a metaphor… but as a fan of this film song writer, I had to write this… let’s call this my tribute – a few weeks ahead of his 14th death anniversary. While Eric Lomax lived on until October 8th, 2012, and was born eleven years ahead of the Indian songwriter, they both lived with a deep pain in their heart that stayed with them for a lifetime… the biopic is poignant; as are the lyrics of many songs I have hummed for long.

Film: Vidhata (1982)

Composer: Kalyan ji-Anand ji | Lyrics: Anand Bakshi | Singer: Suresh Wadkar
Actors: Dilip Kumar | Shammi Kapoor


Film: Dost (1974)

Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal | Lyrics: Anand Bakshi | Singer: Kishore Kumar            Actor: Dharmendra



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