Their friendship has been chronicled in “Victoria & Abdul”, a new film from Stephen Frears, having already made Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, the title character of his 2006 film “The Queen”.
Victoria defied convention, and the protests of her advisors, in making Abdul an increasingly important member of her entourage. “What is the point?” asks a weary regent, during one exchange; “Service, Your Majesty,” Abdul replies; he is soon elevated from servant to teacher, as she asks him to educate her in language and culture.
“I am cantankerous, greedy, fat. I am perhaps disagreeably attached to power, but I am anything but insane,” Dench’s Victoria tells her son. “Abdul has risen on his own merits. Now, he is my friend,” she concludes.
“Victoria & Abdul” will mark the fifth time that Dench and Frears have worked together as actress and director on a film or TV production; in the 1980s, they collaborated on Vietnam-set drama “Saigon: Year of the Cat” and then a play adapted for TV, “Going Gently”.
More recently they worked together on musical comedy drama “Mrs. Henderson Presents” (2005) and then biographical missing persons investigation “Philomena” (2013,) for which Dench was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe each time.
Ali Fazal broke through to Indian audiences thanks to appearances in Hindi comedies “Baat Bann Gayi” and “Bobby Jasoos”, and romantic horror “Khamoshiyan”, before taking a cameo role in the $1.5 billion-earning Hollywood action movie “Furious 7”.
Distributors Focus Features and Universal Pictures each released their own debut trailers for “Victoria & Abdul”. Both have the same key structure with Universal’s, at 16 seconds longer, squeezing in a little extra reference to Abdul’s Indian background as well as the apparent scandal presented by his status as Victoria’s personal assistant. JB
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