Recently I watched a British movie Victoria & Abdul on Netflix. Made in 2017, the film bridges both Indian and British talents. It is based on a book of the same name written by Shrabani Basu. Nicely directed by Stephen Frears, a British director, film has lead roles by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. With her elegance and experience, Judi Dench certainly brings out all dramatic elements that Queen Victoria might have felt for Abdul, his Indian servant. Ali Fazal is coming out very well as a bright actor in his role of Abdul from beginning to the end.
The film describes story of young Indian clerk and old British Queen, one looking for a new life in Britain and another excited to find a new company in a new Indian Muslim boy whom she describes as ‘terribly handsome’ in the movie. Not easy to say what kind of relationship exists between them in the film, but Abdul becomes munshi- a teacher – of Urdu to Her Highness, which the royal family members didn’t like. The increasing importance of the ‘low born’ Indian clerk was perhaps not acceptable to them. So, there is humor in the movie.
Slowly Queen Victoria’s interest increases in India and she gets Abdul to build the Durbar Room at her Isle of Wight home of Osborne House. Elements of Mughal rule in India is brought to the movie through Abdul’s wisdom. Due to jealously, family members persistently try to send Abdul back to India, which doesn’t happen during the lifetime of Queen, as she resists every move and keeps Abdul with her. She even gets Abdul’s family in England. But finally, when she dies, Abdul is sent back to India, where he spends rest of his life in Agra.
The movie was well-received by the audience and critics and ended up making a huge profit and earning many reputed awards. It won awards for best costume design at 15th Irish Film & Television Awards in 2018. Director Stephen Frears won Truly Moving Picture Award at the 26th Heartland Film Festival and Music Director Thomas Newman won Hollywood Film Composer Award at the 21st Hollywood Film Awards. Actress Judi Dench was nominated for a number of awards at various functions including for the 75th Golden Globe Award.
There are a number of joint film projects taken up by India and the UK, and many of them are well received in both the countries. It creates a sustaining living bridge between the two countries.