“Victoria & Abdul” is the true story of a friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian Muslim servant and good friend Abdul Karim. This isn’t a perfect drama because of its moments of awkwardness, but seeing Judi Dench and Ali Fazal together playing these characters on screen makes the movie charming.
Abdul and another selected Indian named Mohammad (Adeel Akhta from “The Big Sick”) are both sent to London to present the Queen with a medal during her Golden Jubilee. Victoria takes a liking to Abdul’s charms, and as Queen, she makes him both her personal servant and her teacher. He must teach her about his culture, his language, and his people’s history. Ergo, he also becomes known as her Munshi (an Urdu word for either “clerk” or “teacher,” I think you know which one Victoria means).
Trouble brews throughout the entire kingdom. Her servants, spoiled turd son Bertie (Eddie Izzard), and the Prime Minister (Michael Gambon) are all appalled by her behavior, mainly because Abdul is an Indian, and what England’s future may hold.
The movie sometimes become annoying with some awkward dispositions and attitudes brought upon by the servants and other Indian servant. And we don’t really need to give a gelatin serving a goofy look.
Still, “Victoria & Abdul” offers such fine performances from Dench and Fazal, who portray them with the kind of art and majesty we love to see. Directed by Stephen Frears (who also guided Dench in the Oscar-nominated “Philomena”) and based on Shrabani Basu’s novel, this movie is further proof that India has such fascinating stories to tell.