By Omair Alavi Some films are meant to be watched in the cinema and Stephen Frears’ Victoria & Abdul is one such flick where the East meets the West and creates problems for those not part of the relationship. Yes, the film is about the friendship between Queen Victoria and her Munshee Abdul Karim, something…
SAMAA | Omair Alavi – Posted: Oct 18, 2017 | Last Updated: 4 years ago
By Omair Alavi
Some films are meant to be watched in the cinema and Stephen Frears’ Victoria & Abdul is one such flick where the East meets the West and creates problems for those not part of the relationship. Yes, the film is about the friendship between Queen Victoria and her Munshee Abdul Karim, something that didn’t go down well with her staff. The film has brilliant performances from all the actors; it is a must-watch flick since it brings forth the hypocrisy of the British rulers of India who thought that Indians didn’t deserve first-rate treatment like the Whites.
Queen Victoria (Dame Judi Dench) ruled the British Empire where the sun never set; in her last few years, she befriended an Indian Muslim servant Abdul (Ali Fazal) and their friendship helped her understand the meaning of life. She promotes him to her Munshee, gives him his own staff and asks him to teach her Urdu and the Holy Quran. Her court meanwhile despises Abdul but the Queen stands in their way in an authoritative manner suited to the Empress of India.
Judi Dench is one of the finest character actors in the world and no one could have played Queen Victoria better than her; the way she gives a shut up call to those who wanted to declare her insane is one of those scenes that stay with you forever. Ali Fazal as the Indian Muslim Servant gives a first-rate performance considering he shared most of his scenes with a veteran. Michael Gambon, Eddie Izzard and Adeel Akhtar also give authentic performances and you feel transported back in the 1890s when the friendship between a Queen and the Servant was the talk of the town.
The film loses its narrative as it shifts gears from comedy to drama and finally tragedy; there were quite a number of scenes that could have been made smaller or edited out. The director takes creative liberty to weave a story around an affair that was never established, keeping the audience engrossed in the story. Abdul’s wife didn’t seem like a lady from the last century and that seemed awkward, considering she appears in the film for a short duration.
Verdict – 3.5/5
Victoria & Abdul revolves around that friendship and for the first time in a century, people get to know about what people in those days considered an alleged affair but was a friendly relationship between two people. Based on a best-selling book by the same name, it is a not to be missed flick if you value the portrayal of historical figures. The lead actors give a brilliant performance and the director should be commended for taking us back in time, even before the creation of India and Pakistan.