A new movie that sheds light on the fascinating tale of how one of Queen Victoria’s Indian servants became one of her closest friends will open across the UK in September.
Based on the book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Indian author Shrabani Basu, the film details a relationship many in the royal family wished to keep quiet.
Directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena, Mrs. Henderson Presents), the movie boasts a star-studded cast led by Dame Judi Dench, who reprises her role as Queen Victoria following 1997’s Mrs Brown.
Bollywood actor Ali Fazal stars as Victoria’s humble servant from India, Abdul Karim; Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, Ocean’s Thirteen) as Bertie, Prince of Wales; Tim Pigott-Smith (The Jewel in the Crown) as Sir Henry Ponsonby; and BAFTA award winner Adeel Akhtar (Murdered by My Father) as Abdul’s loyal friend Mohammed.
The biographical drama focuses on the later years of Queen Victoria’s life and explores the true story of her unlikely friendship with Abdul. After travelling from India to participate in the Golden Jubilee celebrations, the young clerk is surprised to find favour with the Queen herself. Victoria comes to question the constrictions of her long-held position and the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance, with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As their friendship deepens, she starts to see a changing world through new eyes.
The idea for Shrabani Basu’s book came during a visit to Osborne House, Victoria’s residence on the Isle of Wight. Here she saw a bronze bust and several portraits of Abdul Karim, and a seed was sown that would lead to an astonishing journey of discovery.
In an attempt to conceal the relationship between the queen and Abdul, Victoria’s son Bertie, later King Edward VII, destroyed all relevant correspondence. However, her Hindustani journals survived and it was in these journals that Basu discovered the story of Queen Victoria and her beloved Abdul.
Handwritten by Victoria in Urdu, the journals had sat in the Royal Archive, entirely left out of any and all Western versions of Victorian history because none of the historians read Urdu. Abdul’s own diary gave Basu a first-hand account that confirmed much of what she had found in the Queen’s Urdu writings.
Victoria and Abdul will open in UK cinemas on September 15.