Vic­to­ria & Ab­dul is a pretty pe­riod piece

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Metro - RASHID IRANI n

VIC­TO­RIA & AB­DUL Di­rec­tion: Stephen Frears Ac­tors: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal

Twenty years af­ter her first lead­ing (and Os­car-nom­i­nated) role as Queen Vic­to­ria in the his­tor­i­cal drama Mrs. Brown, Judi Dench reprises the role of lon­greign­ing Bri­tish monarch for an­other film.

Chron­i­cling the in­cred­i­ble true story of the friend­ship be­tween Vic­to­ria, then in the twi­light of her life, and a young In­dian clerk named Ab­dul Karim (Fazal), Vic­to­ria & Ab­dul is buoyed by an old-fash­ioned cin­e­matic style re­plete with hu­mour and com­pas­sion.

Soon af­ter ar­riv­ing from Agra to present the sov­er­eign with a cer­e­mo­nial coin on the oc­ca­sion of her golden ju­bilee cel­e­bra­tions, the ‘com­moner’ finds favour with the queen, much to the an­noy­ance of her en­tourage.

In­creas­ingly weary of her priv­i­leged po­si­tion, the oc­to­ge­nar­ian monarch be­gins to learn Urdu from her per­sonal ‘mun­shi’. Over­whelmed by the unswerv­ing loy­alty and can­dour of her new In­dian con­fi­dante, she even in­stalls a dur­bar hall com­plete with pea­cock throne at the royal res­i­dence.

As their re­la­tion­ship deep­ens and Vic­to­ria’s gloom is dis­pelled, the house­hold staff and her own son threaten re­volt, push­ing the monar­chy on the brink of cri­sis.

Vet­eran Bri­tish film­maker Stephen Frears, who guided He­len Mir­ren to an Academy Award in The Queen (2006), ef­fec­tively evokes the re­galia of the late 19th cen­tury im­pe­rial court.

The be­lated ar­rival of Ab­dul’s wife and mother-in­law barely man­ages to touch upon cru­cial is­sues like the con­se­quences of colo­nial­ism and the racial prej­u­dices preva­lent at the time of the Raj. The treat­ment meted out to Ab­dul and his fam­ily af­ter the death of the em­press is de­picted in a few shoddy scenes.

Apart from the su­perla­tive Judi Dench (surely a shoo-in for an­other Os­car nom­i­na­tion), there are a host of strong sup­port­ing per­for­mances notably Ab­deel Akhtar as Ab­dul’s dis­en­chanted side­kick, Ed­die Iz­zard as the fu­ture king Ed­ward VII and Si­mon Cal­low as the leg­endary opera com­poser Puc­cini.

Es­sen­tially a pretty pe­riod piece, Vic­to­ria & Ab­dul is worth the price of ad­mis­sion.

It is also worth not­ing that John Madden who di­rected Judi Dench in her first out­ing as Queen Vic­to­ria in Mrs. Brown back in 1997 is cur­rently in the city in his ca­pac­ity of chair­per­son of the jury of the In­ter­na­tional Com­pe­ti­tion sec­tion at the on­go­ing Mum­bai film fes­ti­val (MAMI).


Judi Dench (left) and Ali Fazal in the film.

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