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VICTORIA AND ABDUL: a life lesson for the masses

victoria-and-abdul-a-life-lesson-for-the-masses

Victoria and Abdul is a powerful, easy-going movie that one doesn't necessarily expect to fully enjoy when going to the cinema. However, this historically inspired drama starring Judy Dench and Ali Fazal does just that. You discover, laugh and possibly cry along with the characters.

The Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) directed BBC film explores the later years of the life of Queen Victoria when, bored with court life and her role as an empress of a distant land, she develops a close friendship with an Indian clerk, Abdul.

"Victoria & Abdul is worth seeing for Dench’s magisterial performance and for Frears’s light but sure directorial touch. Just don’t mistake it for actual history." (The Atlantic)

"“Based on real events … mostly,” reads a text at the movie’s opening. Queen Victoria’s first encounters with Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian functionary sent to Britain to present her with a ceremonial coin, are in comedic scenes that lampoon the pomp of her court. The material is broad, and funny. The Queen is struck by Abdul’s bearing and handsomeness, and soon enough is receiving him in private audiences and having him tutor her in Urdu. He becomes her “munshi” (teacher) and his presence in her life invigorates her. Much to the displeasure of her actual court, including her son and heir “Bertie” (a.k.a. Edward VII), played with a beard and fiercely indignant eyebrows by Eddie Izzard." (NYTimes)

queen-victoria-abdul-karim

(source: Vanity Fair)

"Dench’s performance is impeccable: she is so deftly made up that she looks the 81 that Victoria is supposed to be, wrinkles and all. She conveys all the hauteur and boredom of the empress. Unlike her earlier relationship with a servant she fell in love with, her relationship with Abdul is platonic. She writes to him five times a day even though he sits just at the end of the corridor. She loves him for being free and frank with her and for bringing her India – through Urdu poetry, Muslim spirituality, chicken curry, dal and pulao – with childlike simplicity. As an empress of faraway India, she longs for that exposure. Everything from the Quran to mangoes intrigues her and she loves his curry so much that it becomes part of the palace’s rotating menu. Her zest for life is suddenly revived by this relationship which kindles her maternal love – she signs her letters, “your loving mother”. [...] But the British press has not been kind to the film. With characteristic political correctness, they have found the film nostalgic: they feel it is talking down to Indians, to Muslims and that it is exploitative. The media in the US, with no connection to the Empire, has been kinder: they have enjoyed Dench – hugely popular in the US – and the dark and sexy newcomer Ali Fazal. US’s love affair with British royalty continues apace. And young Victoria, popularised by the TV series, seen here at the other end of her life, still inspires so much interest it will return for a second season due to public demand." (The Wire)

""The key to good service is standing still and looking backwards,” a royal functionary informs Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), before the Indian servant’s first, fateful meeting with Queen Victoria (Judi Dench). There’s no question that Victoria & Abdul, Stephen Frears’ new film about the extraordinary friendship between the ageing monarch and her young Muslim attendant known as “the Munshi” has both of those abilities down pat. Beginning with a coy disclaimer that avows what follows is “based on true events… mostly”, Frears’ film is all nostalgia and inertia – a tale ablaze with historical import and contemporary resonance, reduced to commemorative biscuit tin proportions. [...] “Life is a carpet,” he tells her. “We weave in and out to make a pattern.” The way Fazal delivers the line it actually sounds quite profound – and the pair’s early scenes together do have an amicable thrum and snap, as the Empress of India and this humble Muslim bookkeeper playfully sound each other out. There is a detour to the heathery fells of Balmoral, beautifully shot through gauzy rain by Danny Cohen, in which Victoria and Abdul travel by rowing boat to Glas-allt Shiel – the loch-side bothy where the Queen had met with John Brown. " (Telegraph)

Watch the trailer below.

Tags:   recommendation, drama, film, Victoria and Abdul

Related:   Philomena, The Queen, Victoria and Abdul


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