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Victoria & Abdul: Judi Dench and Ali Fazal A Rare Friendship

Coastweek -- ‘He cooked chicken curry and so because of him, curries entered the British royal kitchens.’

‘Eventually, he became a political advisor to the queen.’

‘This guy was disrupting the royal household. It sent shockwaves...’ - Ali Fazal on his character Abdul Karim and working with acting legend Judi Dench.

In 1887, during Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee celebrations, two Indian clerks were sent from Agra to England to present the monarch with a golden mohar.

One of the clerks, Abdul Karim, became the queen’s trusted confidante and spent the next 15 years teaching her Urdu, and advising the empress of India on political and other matters.

Six years ago, Shrabani Basu, an Indian journalist living in London, wrote Victoria and Abdul about this unusual friendship between monarch and clerk.

The book is now a film, directed by Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, High Fidelity, The Queen, Philomena).

In the charming and at times hilarious film, Judi Dench plays the queen. Munshi Abdul Karim is played by Bollywood actor Ali Fazal.

Victoria and Abdul premie-red at the Venice film festival and played recently at the Toronto international film festival.

It opens in the US on September 22 and on October 4 in India.

This is not Fazal’s first outing in a Western film; he was part of Fast & Furious 7 (2015).


Coastweek -- Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim in Victoria & Abdul.

Describing his experience of working in the West, Ali said not putting on an ‘Appu accent’ was his first fight.

‘That’s not an Indian accent,’ he said at the trailer launch. ‘I was very adamant about certain words that the western culture doesn’t understand. These are the words and names you can’t pronounce any other way. If you have a point, people listen.’

Karim was just 24 when he arrived in England from Agra to present Queen Victoria with a special mohar or gold coin to mark her Golden Jubilee in 1887.

He grew close to the ageing monarch, a bond not appreciated by much of the royal household at the time.

Award-winning British filmmaker Stephen Frears has now transformed the tale for celluloid with Dench as Victoria and Fazal as Abdul.

“It is fantastic. As a writer, it is a lonely process of research. It took me four years to write the book.

Now the film is taking it to a different level,” said Basu, in reference to the worldwide attention being showered upon this little-known story from the Raj.


Coastweek -- Ali Fazal and Judi Dench at the Venice Film Festival. PHOTOGRAPH: PASCAL LE SEGRETAIN/GETTY IMAGES

She stumbled upon the curious friendship between Victoria and Abdul, who become the Queen’s Urdu teacher or munshi during a visit to Osborne House many years ago.

Basu then followed it up with a visit to Windsor Castle and went through Queen Victoria’s Hindustani journals - a collection of note-books filled with the monarch’s handwriting practicing Urdu with her munshi.

“I did know that Queen Victoria loved curries and had some Indian servants. It was when I went to Osborne House and saw the portraits of Abdul Karim in the Indian corridor that my curiosity was first aroused.

“He did not look like a servant. Walking through the Durbar Hall, I could feel Victoria’s connection with India.

That was the starting point,” recalls the author of “Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant”.

The book is also getting a fresh launch in the run up to the film’s release, both in Britain and in India, and Basu feels the timing could not be more appropriate with 2017 marking the UK India Year of Culture.

“Victoria was ahead of her time. She steeped herself in her later years in Indian culture. She learnt to read and write in Urdu, she had curries cooked in her Royal palaces. It is the perfect Indo-UK shared culture story,” says Basu.

(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)


Shabana Azmi Honoured With ‘Icons of Indian Cinema’ Award

Coastweek -- The 8th edition of Jagran Film Festival will honour Shabana Azmi during the closing ceremony of the Mumbai edition on 24th September in the presence of the Indian Film Fraternity.

Shabana Azmi begun her career with a feature film Ankur directed by Shyam Benegal which brought her in the national and international limelight as a powerful performer. Ever since Shabana never looked back and acted in some of the Classics of Indian Cinema like ‘Ankur’, ‘Nishant’, ‘Arth’, ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’, ‘Paar’, ‘Khandar’ and many others.

One of the icons of Parallel Cinema of the 1970, she is one of those few rare actors who have acted in the mainstream Cinema too with equal dexterity and grace. Her films’Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Parvarish’, ‘Hira Aur Pathar’, ‘Swarg Narak’ and many other stand as shining examples of beauty and grace.

Commenting on the Award, the Festival’s Strategic Consultant, Manoj Srivastava said, ‘It’s a matter of pride for the Festival that such a great actor who hasn’t perhaps got her due as yet is being honoured with the ‘Icons of Indian Cinema Award’.

I feel this is a great day for the Festival.‘

Coastweek -- Veteran Actress Shabana Azmi. 

The Festival took off in Delhi before moving on with the journey to cities like Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Patna, Ranchi, Dehradoon, Bhopal, Indore, Meerut and many others.

The journey shall culminate in Mumbai between 18-24th September 2017.

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