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Victoria & Abdul: A movie of devotion and trust

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As a commoner one perceives the life of royalty and aristocracy to be luxurious and unencumbered with the worries with which we are plagued… and yet, they are humans just as we are and sometimes even lonelier. To this end, director – Stephen Frears, has magnificently highlighted the joy and hope brought into Queen Victoria’s life by a young Indian clerk – Abdul Karim, who travelled from India in 1887 to present a ceremonial medal on behalf of his country

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar, Tim Piggot-Smith, Olivia Williams, Simon Callow, Michael Gambon

Dame Judi Dench is a joy to behold on the screen and in ‘Victoria & Abdul’ she traverses the boundaries of etiquette and breeding with aplomb taking the aging queen, bored to death with the interminable rounds of dinners and stilted conversation, into a world where there is something to look forward to each day. 

Based on hidden diaries and journals only revealed on Abdul’s death, journalist Shrabani Basu compiled ‘Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant’ – this is the premise upon which the film is based.

“She was the Queen of England and he was a humble clerk from India,” states Shrabani in the production notes. Allegedly, she was in India in 2001 researching a book on curry when she visited Osborne House, knowing that this was amongst Queen Victoria’s favourite dishes… and this is where she discovered two portraits and one bronze bust of an Indian gentleman. In 2006 Shrabani visited Balmoral and this is where she saw Karim Cottage – the house specifically built for Abdul who had become a cherished advisor known as the Munshi… totally intrigued Shrabani’s appetite was whetted and her journey of discovery began.

[Extract from the production notes]: ‘The Queen’s son Bertie, later King Edward VII, had destroyed all correspondence between his mother and the Munshi – but had not thought to touch her Hindustani journals. In those journals, Basu discovered the story of Queen Victoria and her beloved Munshi, Abdul Karim.

‘Handwritten by Victoria in Urdu, the journals had sat in the Royal Archive, entirely left out of any and all Western versions of Victorian history because none of the historians read Urdu. Basu reports, “I can understand Urdu, though I can’t read the script. Abdul had written the lines in Roman for Victoria and I understood these. Where was only the Urdu script, I had it translated. There were 13 volumes.” There was one further journal unearthed in Pakistan which had been stored away in a trunk.’

This is an aspect of Victoria’s life which director Stephen Frears has brought to life in a most touching manner and for Dame Judi it was an opportunity to revisit a character with a different outlook. “I admire Victoria as a remarkable person,” she states in the production notes, “this was an irresistible story”. And, with respect to India, it is Judi’s spiritual home. In addition, Frears made the most of Judi’s “mischievous and subversive qualities” to highlight Victoria’s rebellious streak… and the injections of humour are superb.

‘Victoria & Abdul’ is a definite MUST SEE!

To view the trailer

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