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Victoria & Abdul (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 119 minutes.


Apparently aging, obese Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) had the hots for a studley young Indian clerk, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), called “Munshi” which means teacher. This was ostensibly a well-kept secret until 2001 when journalist Shrabani Basu was researching a book on the history of curry. She found that Queen Victoria loved eating curry so she visited Osbourne house on the Isle of Wight, which was a getaway for the Queen, and spotted several portraits of a handsome young Muslim Indian man.

In 2006 she visited the Queen’s Castle in Balmoral Scotland and discovered a house that Victoria had built for Abdul, called Karim Cottage. This raised her antennae and she discovered the relationship that hitherto had been successfully buried. The result was her book, “Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant,” which has been made into this film by director Stephen Frears from a script by Lee Hall.

24-year-old Abdul had gone to London to present a ceremonial medal for the celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, at which time Queen Victoria was 68 years old and was immediately attracted to him. This is that tale, as the elderly Queen lusts after the young Indian.

Victoria’s household, led by her son, Bertie (Eddie Izzard), the future King Edward VII, but then the Prince of Wales, railed and schemed against the relationship in general and Munshi in particular.

While this is a well told, eye-opening story, it is can be slow in parts. The acting is very good, as is the ambience created by the production design (Alan MacDonald).