Verdict - A slightly slow movie which could have been better with a better performance from Ali Faisal
Abdul Karim, a young, good-looking clerk is sent to England to present a ‘mohur’ to the monarch, Queen Victoria, on her Jubilee. He catches the Queen’s attention and she elevates him to the role of her Munshi or teacher. His innocence, knowledge and love for her bring cheer into her life which is so bound by her role as a Monarch. Their association causes a scandal in the Royal family. They cannot stand the idea of a lowly Muslim servant winning the affections of the Queen and they make all sorts of attempts to ruin the relationship.
The movie starts out in a humourous way with the two ‘Hindoos’ (who are actually Muslims) being taught the strict protocol of the Court. As Abdul charms the Queen, the relationship between them slowly deepens and the movie takes on a more sombre note. The last scene between the Queen and Abdul is very emotional and one of the most beautiful scenes I have experienced.
Judie Dench is the Queen – impervious, stubborn, commanding. That a lady her age can start looking like a young teenager as she gets more drawn to Abdul speaks volumes of her prowess as an actress. Ali Faizal is cute and projects innocence. But this uniform cheerfulness makes the character a bit unidimensional. Unlike his colleague Mohammed who carries a lot of angst against the British rule in India, Abdul seems to harbour no grudge and loves the Queen unreservedly. His motivations seem to be simple – just to offer his devotion to the Queen. Adeel Akhtar who plays Mohammed puts in a far more powerful and layered performance compared to Ali Faisal and I wish he had got more screen time to air his feelings. The rest of the cast also puts in great performances.
This is a slightly slow movie with the tension and the relationship taking their time to ripen. The slow place is enlivened by some witty dialogues that keep you engaged in the goings-on. Overall,I think the movie didn’t touch me as much as I thought it could have and I would say Ali Faisal is the weak link. However, it’s still worth a watch for a glimpse into our history and for Dame Judie Dench’s Victoria.