An extraordinary true story, untold and hidden for over a century, is set to be this autumn’s cinema highlight as Dame Judi Dench and Ali Fazal portray the relationship between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim.
With the colours of India and the splendour of royal palaces as a backdrop, Victoria & Abdul brings to life a meeting of minds from such diverse backgrounds that caused much conflict in the royal household.
A young man, Abdul Karim, travelled from Agar, India, to serve Queen Victoria during her Golden Jubilee celebrations. Their unlikely friendship grew while the royal court looked on with distain. An educated man, Abdul Karim, formally a clerk in India, re-awoke a sense of adventure and a passion for learning in the 81-year-old Queen.
It was through Abdul’s eyes that she learnt of a changing world, of the tensions between their two cultures and her position as sovereign. As their friendship grew so did their affection, devotion and loyalty.
The film not only depicts a true friendship between people of different ages, cultures and social standing but, also of the huge responsibility bestowed on the monarchy. How loneliness can be a large part of ageing and how you can be surrounded by people yet feel completely alone.
The cast headed by Dame Judi Dench is so expertly supported by Ali Fazal, previously unknown in the UK but well known in India. Eddie Izzard plays a totally convincing Bertie, and cast members Michael Gambon, Simon Callow and the late Tim Piggott-Smith turn in equally convincing performances.
Watch the official trailer for Victoria & Abdul
It was a chance sighting of a painting of Abdul Karim in Osbourne House, one depicting the young man as a nobleman rather than a servant, that inspired writer Shrabani Basu to research a story that had remained untold for over 100 years. It was this painting so loved by Queen Victoria, that she even copied it herself, that inspired Basu’s 2010 book, Victoria & Abdul. Working alongside screenwriter Lee Hall of Billy Elliot fame, director Stephen Frears and BAFTA award winning filmmaker Beedan Kidron, Shrabani Basu’s story unfolds to show the different stages Victoria experiences during her friendship with Abdul.
It’s hard to imagine anyone playing Queen Victoria other than Dame Judi, she plays the cantankerous often bitter woman with a wicked sense of humour and a twinkle in her eye.
In cinemas from 15th September 2017