My earliest memory of a train journey is very short – a mere 25 Kilometres!
It was mid 1980s, I had just finished my 3rd year of schooling and my sister, born 5 years after me, was still a toddler. In 1986, while returning home after spending the summer holidays at my mother’s place near Kolar, I wanted to travel on a train. But stating my sister’s tender age, my dad had bluntly ignored all my pleas. Teary-eyed, I pleaded with my mother, and luckily, that worked. As she tenderly coaxed my dad, he slowly relented and after awhile, to my utter surprise, he agreed. But in bargain, he had set one important condition – the train journey has to be a very short trip. Thrilled at the prospect of my first glide over the metal tracks, I agreed without a word.
After much discussion, my parents decided to travel between Mysore and Nanjanagud, a distance of about 25 Kilometres, on a train. To my delight, the slow-paced local chugging on a narrow-gauge tracks covered the short distance in lazy 50 minutes; thus giving me enough time to get immersed in an mesmerizing new world. Sitting on a hard seat in the general compartment and looking at the passing scenery, I was hooked to trains for life!
Today, I have travelled across most part of India and tasted the luxuries of Rajdhani, maddening rush of Mumbai locals and the privacy of First Class voyages. I’m also obsessed with memoirs and movies that revolve around unusual journeys in far-off places. But nothing has replaced the fascinating memories of my first train ride – primeval and captivating.
Here are my 5 favourite movies with a central theme of curious train journeys from around the world!
Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express | 2010 | English
A movie adaptation of Agatha Christie’s detective novel of the same title, in Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot, the famous Belgian detective, solves a strange murder mystery on a stranded train amid the snowdrift. Since its initial print, the famous novel is adapted into many plays, radio shows and movies, and the 2010 version, produced for a private television channel, is my favourite. Unlike earlier adaptations, in Murder on the Orient Express, David Suchet’s enactment of Monsieur Poirot is the closest to Agatha Christie’s text version.
The Lady Vanishes | 1938 | English
The penultimate movie directed by the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, in UK before his move to Hollywood, The Lady Vanishes is a curious tale with generous dose of wit and hilarity. On a packed train in the mountainous European region, a pretty damsel-in-distress, Iris Henderson, is helped by a young man, Gilbert, to search for her elderly, helpful travel companion Miss Froy, who has disappeared without a trace on a moving train. Keep an eye for the trademark appearance of Hitchcock at the end!
The Burning Train | 1980 | Hindi
A jealous railway engineer impairs an inaugural super-fast express train between New Delhi and Mumbai. The train, out of control and set ablaze, is unstoppable. The safety of countless passengers, including a bunch school kids, is in the hands of few brave-heart individuals. A gripping tale of friendship, adventure and triumph, the Burning Train is a celluloid drama of epic proportions. With a grand star-cast that includes Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Parveen Babi and several leading actors of 1980s, the movie is a true Bollywood thriller. And watch out for Khushboo, it’s her debut as a child artist!
The General | 1926 | Silent
Based on a true incident during the American Civil War in 1862, The General is a classic cat and mouse tale with a generous dose of humour. Released in 1926, the silent comedy tells the story of Johnnie Gray, a train engineer, as he chases the Union spies riding on a stolen locomotive to cut-off the Confederate supply lines. He hopes to save his beloved locomotive, The General, and revive his fading love life with Annabelle, his fiancée. Considered to be one of the best movies ever made, The General is ranked 18th among the best 100 cinema of all time by the American Film Institute.
The Polar Express | 2004 | English | Animation
Set in the early 1950s, a kid living in the United States is magically transported on a train to North Pole, the home of Santa Claus! The animated movie traces the journey of self-discovery of a young hero from a non-believer of the Christmas icon to an ardent fan. The epic voyage is loaded with breath-taking adventures and stunning visual effects. Using the live action performance capture technique, the movie features several Hollywood actors, including Tom Hanks, in animated characters.