Victoria & Abdul will not give you an insight into history, but don’t be disappointed. At no point is the film about India’s freedom struggle or about the British monopoly over India. It is just a beautiful story about the relationship between Victoria (Judi Dench) and Abdul (Ali Fazal)…
Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Victoria & Abdul is a story about Queen Victoria, the then Empress of India and her relationship with one fellow ‘Hindu’ servant who later turns into her Munshi (teacher). Except that Abdul is a Muslim. Director Stephen Frears doesn’t want us to know anything beyond this friendship that develops over a period of time. He wants us to know the beauty that lies in the heart of the Queen and how one single person can change you so much, forever.
Victoria & Abdul does have an inconsistent phase, falls down at some moments, but the brilliance of Judi Dench lifts it up every single time. Let’s just admit it, she is James Bond’s boss, nothing she does will ever be wrong. Seriously, she doesn’t get a single frame wrong. She is there in most of the film, and in almost the whole of it, she is drunk with power. But that doesn’t come out as negative. That is how she’s supposed to be. She’s vulnerable, angry, fat and old, sleeps at the dinner, has no regard to give to table manners, but she powerful. Not just as a queen but also as an actor. This film belongs to Dench.
Ali Fazal is one of my favourite actors from the Hindi film industry. And he just gives me another reason to love his craft even more. He is so sincere and natural as an actor that you wonder if he is actually acting. It seems to just come to him very organically. Before walking into the theatre I did have some doubts because he is paired opposite THE JUDI DENCH. But he does not falter, even a bit. From his expressions to body language, it is all on point!
My favourite moments in the film are those when Abdul is teaching the Queen how to read and speak Urdu and when he explains her the combination of Biryani and Mango Chutney! They are plain amazing!
All in all, if you want history lessons, open a book. This film will not teach you that and the beauty is that the makers don’t show it as a historical film. It is mostly a film about friendship.
If I had to rate the film, including my friend and myself, there were 5 people in the audience at a certain PVR. India really needs to know what to watch, and what not to.