I have always had a fascination for Queen Victoria and so when I first saw the trailer of Victoria & Abdul, it did get my blood pumping with anticipation.
This movie is about the unlikely friendship not just between a very powerful queen of her time and her servant, but a friendship that crossed racial boundaries as well as social statures. Abdul Karim, a young prison clerk in Agra, India is instructed to present the queen with a mohur- a special gold coin minted as a token of appreciation by British India on the queen's golden jubilee in 1887. As Abdul begins his service by her side, the aged queen takes a liking to him and instructs him to teach her on matters regarding India, ranging from its exotic fruit to its language and customs. Thereafter, she begins referring to Abdul as Munshi meaning teacher in the Persian language. Their friendship is frowned upon by the royal household and they do what they can to convince the queen to sever her relations with Abdul. She retaliates by elevating Abdul's social stature and recognition in the royal household, which only infuriates them further. In the meanwhile, Abdul inevitably becomes a victim of their tug of war- respected in the queen's presence and bullied out of it.
The beginning of this movie did hold my interest, but to my dismay, this waned towards the middle and saw no promise to gain it back at all. It, instead left me with so many questions like what was it about this particular servant that had drawn the queen so much to highly favor him? Was Abdul sincere in his friendship?
The premise of the movie without a doubt was an interesting one, and Judi Dench's performance as Queen Victoria was remarkable. In such case, I would have to lay blame on the poor scripting for not answering these questions. Perhaps, the 111 minutes of the movie was simply not enough to portray the depth of friendship between the queen and her munshi. Perhaps, this was a story that would have been better suited for a mini-series.
On the whole, I did like Victoria & Abdul, but not enough to watch it again in a very long long... long time.