Victoria & Abdul
The Victorian age is one of my favorite periods, and I have enjoyed Judi Dench’s portrayals of Queen Victoria, so I went to see this film with high hopes. It didn’t disappoint. At the beginning, the audience laughed at a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer that the film is based on actual events, ‘mostly.’ From there, the filmmakers managed to weave fiction with fact to create an entertaining story about an unconventional friendship. It’s based on the book of the same name by Shrabani Basu.
The film centers on Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian Muslim brought from Agra to present a ceremonial coin to the queen. She is old and tired, and barely notices the gesture, but eventually the two become friends, and the queen is revived by Abdul’s kind attention. He becomes her ‘munshi’ or teacher, and she learns Urdu and the Quran with his help. Her stodgy, jealous advisers and family object to the foreigner’s influence, but she reminds them that she is empress of India, after all, so the lessons are appropriate.
Abdul provides the companionship she craves, and the queen touches his heart as well. I love that the film is entertaining at every turn, no small achievement in a setting like the highly formal royal court of Victorian England. Abdul and his Indian companion, Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), provide plenty of comic interest, as does the queen.
Should you see it? Yes, I really enjoyed it!
Viewed at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema