Do you know those days? Those rough ones, the ones you just want to stay home and coddle with comfort food and a nice glass of wine? And then your friend shows up, behaving totally awkward. People are watching, judging and disapproving. But you instantly start feeling better.
That is what you find in the screen version of Shrabani Basu: Victoria & Abdul. Victoria (Judi Dench), queen of the United Kingdom, Ireland and, not to forget, empress of India, have had more than a rough day. She is fed up with her daily routine and are still mourning her late husband, Prince Albert.
Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) brings some Indian sunlight into her life. Him and his compatriot, Mohammed Buksh, have come all the way from India to the United Kingdom and to the queen, to offer her a mohur, coin out of India. Abdul kisses the queens feet to cheer her up and this kind gesture ends up having a lot of consequences. Victoria’s son Albert, the prime minister, the maid of honour and the whole staff criticises this friendship.
The friendship is seen as not appropriate in ways of age, skin colour, religion, social- and hierarchical positions. Nonetheless queen Victoria seems to value the servant from the unfamiliar culture and so she decides to make him her Munshi, her teacher in Hindustani and in knowledge of the Indian culture. The clashing opinions about this friendship form a silly but strong story.
Stephen Frears captured this historical narrative of a unique friendship very well. The judgements and hierarchical chaos are shown in a very humorous way. It is not just a biographical story; the film could definitely also belong in the genre comedy. The theme of the jokes is the way of living in that time combined with the cultural differences between England and the colony India.
The movie does not only contain jokes and humour. It shows also some of the English highlights. Think for example of the a glorious locations which shows the historical glory of England. The film is shot at among other things at Osborne house on the Isle of Wight, Balmoral Castle in Scotland and University of Greenwich.
The Victoria & Abdul is a perfect combination of history, humour, drama and friendship!