Victoria & Abdul: An unlikely, heartwarming friendship
The film is a leisurely watch on a lazy afternoon for the performances and the heartwarming moments that the protagonists share
Abdul Karim, a humble worker who keeps the ledger in British-ruled Agra of 1887, unwittingly gets chosen to present Her Majesty with a Mohar for the Golden Jubilee celebrations taking place in England. What was supposed to end without even eye contact turns out to be a moving friendship that the royal house has never seen. Abdul, who is oblivious to the royal protocol, doesn’t hold himself back from talking about the carpets from Agra, thus fascinating the Queen. Queen Victoria, who is bored by the monotonous ceremonies that she is expected to be present at, finds these conversations with the Indian servant engaging. Learning about his proficiency in Urdu and the Quran, she requests Abdul to teach her Urdu, thus bestowing Abdul the title of ‘The Munshi’.
Cast: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal
Director: Stephen Frears
The movie progresses along with the relationship of the two central characters. While the main plot of the movie circles around the growing attachment of Abdul and Victoria, underlying plots speak of the tension in the royal household. As Queen Victoria starts to get increasingly fond of The Munshi, so much so as to build a darbar hall in the palace and to take him along to her holidays, her offsprings get irked. They try various ploys to get the Queen to hate the ‘Hindu,’ but fail. The Queen’s motherly love towards Abdul follows through till her death bed, after which, The Munshi is sent away by her sons after they destroy all proof of such an association.
Victoria & Abdul makes you travel with the characters through the years. The satire on the royal protocal does incite a few laughs, although after a point, it feels overdone. Judi Dench’s portrayal as the bored, ill-tempered yet strong-willed Queen is incredibly convincing. Ali Fazal stays true to the character of an innocent Indian who values his job and is oblivious to the royal etiquette.
Given the two-hour run-time of the film,, you might find yourself bored in parts. For the history buff though, it might come as a treat. To hear hints of the impact of the mutiny, why the Queen never visited India when the British ruled and why there were no records of this 'Munshi' till as late as 2010, will make you connect the dots with what we already know.
Victoria & Abdul is a leisurely watch on a lazy afternoon. Not for the story as much as for the performances and the heartwarming moments that the protagonists share.