A train is a miniature world. The world has no story—at least it does not fit into any pattern of a plot.
The Burning Train also cannot have a story as is commonly understood. It is, however, the story of avariety of human beings—with a variety of experiences. Of men who place self above the nation and those who are ready for the supreme sacrifice to bring meaning to life and in the process demonstrate the character of India.
Whatever story there is in the film revolves around three principal characters and these three characters are childhood friends.
Ashok (Dharmendra) is the only son of Delhi-based multi-millionaire. His passion aside from Seema (Hema Malini), whom he loves with all his heart, is fast cars.Vinod (Vinod Khanna) is a gifted young engineer, who has come up the hard way being the son of a Railway Guard. His passion aside from Sheetal (Parveen Babi) is fast trains.
Randhir (Danny) is a psychopath and being the son of a high Railway official is accustomed to getting what he wants. He runs into competition against Vinod and loses in everything. As a friend he loses his love—since he also loved Sheetal; and as an engineer he loses the opportunity of designing the Super Express, which honour goes to Vinod on Merits—despite the official position of Randhir’s father.
As the Super Express leaps from the blue prints and the drawing boards to life in the Railways yards many turbulent events rock the lives of the three friends. Ashok’s multi-millionaire father becomes a pauper overnight and commits suicide. And Seema walks out of Ashok’s life just when he needs her most. And Vinod—he is married to Sheetal—and they have a little child. But his obsession for his work and dedication to the Super Express brings him in conflict with his home and as his dream nears completion his marriage is almost on the rocks.
On top of it all Randhir would not allow the honour of the Super Express to go to Vinod. So he plots the destruction of this dream train, which brings us to the Burning Train.
A beautiful train which is going to challenge distances with its great speed carries within itself a small world of passengers—a variety of characters. This world is all song and dance, a world of exoected meetings and a merry go round of a world on wheels. Suddenly the dream becomes a nightmare. The train becomes an inferno on wheels. The happy faces are overshadowed by the clouds of death on the Super Express, which cannot be stopped, hurtles to its doom!
But the Burning Train holds out a challenge to the spirit of man. And man rises to great heights. In the face of the common danger people sink their prejudices, race rivalries and join hands to save the train and the world in miniature that it is.
On the other hand the Railway officials display their great heroism and dedication to duty and make death defying efforts to save the human cargo on the Burning Train.
How the three stories of the friends collide with each other and how the burning train provides a common climax in the shape of a common solution is all too huge in dimension to be squeezed into a synopsis.
Suffice it to say that Ashok and Seema meet in the train in dramatic circumstances and solve their estrangement. Vinod’s broken home is patched up when Sheetal realizes that a dedicated worker has other responsibilities than a wife. Randhir who was the cause of the disaster meets with a fitting end.
THE BURNING TRAIN is dedicated to the soul of India which has remained uncorrupted.
(From the official press booklet)