CAST : Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, AdeelAkhtar, Paul Higgins, Olivia Williams
DIRECTION : Stephen Frears
GENRE : Biography
DURATION : 1 hours 52 minutes
Credits : Inox
StoryIn her latter years, Victoria, the Queen of England and Empress of India (Judi Dench), found solace in the company of an Indian clerk Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), who went on to become her Urdu teacher, spiritual adviser and closest confidant. Based on ShrabaniBasu's book on this extraordinary true story, the film takes a bittersweet look at this little-known friendship that caused a furore within the royal household.
Review Stephen Frears' 'Victoria and Abdul', is a witty telling of the unlikely bond between the aged Queen Victoria of England, the Empress of India, and a commoner, Abdul Karim, whom she appoints as her Urdu teacher and whom she fondly addresses as "Munshia.
Based on "mostly" true facts, the film is drawn from the book penned by SharbaniBasu, which was inspired by volumes of the queen's handwritten notes in Urdu and by the discovery of Abdul Karim's journals in 2010.
Charm and curiosity propels this narrative. The lead pair -- Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim are charming and their relationship is definitely intriguing. This is the second movie in 20 years in which Judi Dench plays Queen Victoria. And this is the second movie in 20 years in which Queen Victoria, played by Judi Dench, has a life-enhancing relationship with a man not of her station.
It's not easy keeping pace with Queen Victoria's (Judi Dench) gorging speed as she wolfs down one scrumptious course after another at a grand banquet celebrating her Golden Jubilee on the throne.But Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), the 20-something Indian clerk bundled off from Agra to present her with a ceremonial mohar, is much too eager about being in Her Majesty's presence to notice her clumsy table manners or drool at the luscious looking menu.Strictly warned against making eye contact, he does exactly that and furthermore plants a reverential kiss on her feet.
How Abdul catches the Queen's fancy, forges a bond with her and upsets the royal sycophants of Victoria's Son Bertie, The Prince of Wales - heir of the royal throne, forms the crux of this tale.
Amid all this, there is growing anxiety among her stuffy officials, notably Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon), private secretary Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith), Baroness Churchill (Olivia Williams), private physician Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), not to mention her son Bertie, Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard).
Ali Fazal, in the role Abdul Karim, is up against the very best in the business. To his credit, he holds his ground and conveys just the right mix of bafflement and servility as the relationship evolves. The film slips up big time in the portrayal of the royal court officials - they are all strictly single-dimension caricatures who lose no opportunity to put Abdul in his place. Not that the actors fluff their lines. It is just that the lines are awkwardly shallow. And so is the film as a whole.