Victoria and Abdul movie is based on the true story of Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim as assembled in the book written by Shrabani Basu. While the movie is like a theatricalized version of what events could have possibly played based on the journals of Abdul Karim, it has little information to offer.
Without proper substance to hold it up, the story of Victoria and Abdul ends up becoming a tad bland. There isn’t anything much here to aggrandize its drama. Doesn’t have a great screenplay to make things better either. While Judi Dench plays her character very convincingly, Ali Fazal‘s portrayal of Abdul becomes very monotonous. Drama doesn’t evoke even a morsel of emotion.
Even though Victoria and Abdul movie is conjured up in a way so as to elicit pity for a character that was ripped straight from history, the depiction, however, fails to make you actually care.
Direction of Victoria and Abdul Movie
To this date, I still marvel at Stephen Frears phenomenon Philomena. There was so much heart in the flick. I was surprised at how it all went missing in Victoria and Abdul Movie. There weren’t words left to marvel, and Stephen fails to reignite his old magic.
He tries to keep humour intact for the most part of the movie, but when the time comes to show some real drama, the movie becomes really thin.
Ali Fazal’s role has been provided with such fewer dialogues that you can’t take that man seriously. He becomes irritating at times when all he could manage to say is:
Whatever your Majesty wants.
You don’t see real concern on his face, but brows that constantly seem to be saying “I am enjoying all the grandeur.” Even though it is a tad true, you want to see his character genuinely rooting for whatever worried the queen. But you sense a weird disconnect. You find him imparting bookish knowledge to a soul who might have already at some point come across such things before. What was crucial there was the gradual build-up of a proper connection, which we see, quite frankly, missing.
The Romantic Link-up
While Stephen Frears does his best not to slap a name to the relation Victoria shared with Abdul, in a way, he somehow does. There are some instances where Victoria is shown swooning over Abdul. Why can’t we think of Abdul as a good friend, a confidant in whom she confided all the things she felt? Whilst the relationship shown between the two is joyfully affectionate, it balances itself precariously on a thin blade of dubitation.
Life is like a carpet…The skill of a carpet is to bring all the different threads together and make something we can all stand on.
Then again Frears could have done that to leave the audience thinking as to how easily a mind wanders, forcing you to walk in the shoes of the spectating world that walked around the main characters. You too were forced to think something might or might not have been there. It’s the gossip world we live in, and it is hard to escape it when important personalities are concerned.
The Lack of Chemistry
Friendship or not, there is an apparent lack of chemistry that will fill you with disinterest. Whilst Judi Dench plays her part just right, Ali Fazal feels like he is constantly moving in with indifference. He makes lesser eye contact, doesn’t really listen to what she has to say, and appears like he doesn’t care. Quite frankly, playing the exact opposite of what his role demanded.
I think it has something to do with the screenplay when you can’t write enough gratitude or can’t properly elaborate the issues Victoria faced, or even get a snappy witty response from Abdul or even a mere well empathizing nod of understanding.
Abdul was an interesting man, the precise reason why Queen Victoria was always so happy with him around, and bestowed him with all the riches. But we don’t see him as an interesting guy. His character was clearly not fabricated properly.
Berti the Son
Personifying a combination of all the jealousy and the malice is Berti, a necessary villainous element in the tale. Berti played by Eddie Izzard, the son of Victoria, is shown in a despicable light.
Whilst his dialogues might have been theatricalized for theatrics, the movie deliberately blemishes a character to shine the light brightly on its protagonist.
Berti: Don’t you see mama? He’s using his position for his own gain.
Victoria: How does that make him any different from you?
The movie makes a villain out of him placing him in the vanguard desperate to renounce Abdul, the Munshi, of all his rights. The rest of the cast assist him beautifully to show Victoria what she failed to see blinded by all the adoration and respect she had for Abdul.
While the movie had many flaws, it isn’t really bad either. Victoria and Abdul movie surges in like a wave, goes up and down occasionally pressing in melodrama showing what grandeur is from the eyes of a man who hasn’t seen anything grand before. That’s a perfect way to show the true value of something.
The flick is not mawkish which would have killed it for many viewers, even though it doesn’t use enough drama. The best thing is that it shows all the pointlessness of daily chores that the then queen was forced to go through. In a way, it forces us to reflect on our very futility in vanity.
Oh to be by oneself, in a simple, rudimentary existence.
People born royal often end up hating materialistic things because they have that aplenty. They are looking for contrasting things, the reason why Abdul was picked almost immediately.
Also, the fact that the movie starts triumphantly by basing itself upon the sheer fact of not looking the queen in her eyes, which was in fact, something that the queen longed for. It is almost screaming to say that she wants people to be like people, looking into each other’s eyes as if peeking into one’s soul.
Listen little drops and give yourself up without regret. You will return to the great sea.
You can order Victoria and Abdul movie from here:
The Final Verdict
The contrast of a queen and servant is amazing. For a man to stand up on a pedestal next to that of a queen, it takes more than mere luck. The movie fails to show that yes, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they pose a pretty picture together. The disparity is what dreams are made of. It leaves your jaws wide open like Abdul staring at the lofty artistic ceilings and secretly wishing himself to be a part of it.
If you somehow focus on just the story it has a great storyline but not a great plot. Only a good direction and striking screenplay could have turned it into a movie we all would have wanted. You strike out some apparent issues, focus on the story sans Fazal’s portrayal of Abdul, and you realize it had content capable of becoming salient.
I guess it’s just not the best of ways to tell a story.
You can check out our other reviews of movies released in 2017 as well.