******** The giveaway is now closed********
As far as I can remember, there has always been an excitement, curiosity, or reverence for royalty. The hubbub around Lady Diane, Prince Charles, Fergie, and later, William, Harry, and Kate has always been of gossip and intense public scrutiny. Not much thought is really given as to whether someone born and therefore dragged into the public eye really wants to be in that position or not.
And, so it must have been for Queen Victoria. In India, she was considered a tyrant for imposing British rule on a hapless population. In England, she was the imperial matriarch, revered and loved by her subjects. Victoria and Abdul seeks in part to address the ‘humanness’ of the Queen. At the time of the opening of the movie, Victoria and Abdul, the queen is shown to be weighed down by personal tragedy; the death of her beloved Scottish manservant. Before that, Victoria had already been devastated by the loss of her husband, something that she never really recovered from and which marked a change in her image as as a Queen; from a serene and involved matriarch of her subjects to a recluse who neglected her royal duties.
I won’t get into the details of the movie beyond that. I did initially find the whole story quite incredible, bordering on fictional, until I found that the book by historian Shrabani Basu, on which the movie was based, recorded actual events and relationships.
The movie still jarred at certain places, such as the scene of Abdul voluntarily falling to his knees and kissing the Queen’s feet (which seemed to please her immensely) and his serene countenance even as she declared herself ‘Empress of India’ while confessing that she had never visited the place. It also jarred to see the Queen’s reaction when Abdul describes the Kohinoor (“Oh, I have that!) and when he tells her that the British destroyed the Peacock throne (no reaction).
On the other hand, the movie doesn’t try to gloss over the fact that Abdul did try to advocate for Indian Muslims, including hiding from her that it was the Muslims (in part) who rose in rebellion against the British during the Sepoy Mutiny. One can of course understand why he did so, while puzzling while he remained dedicated and servile to his dictators.
There is plenty to scoff at in the movie as ‘Hollywood embellishments’ and also to smile at (such as Mohammed’s disgust for the British ‘barbarians’ who eat ‘pig’s blood and sheep brain’). Judi Dench as Queen Victoria is dazzling while Ali Fazal looks yummilicious (though not much more). I would definitely see it, but take certain scenes with a massive grain of salt. After all, they do mention right at the beginning, “Based on true events…mostly”!
The movie opens nationwide on October 6.
Now, to come to the reason why you’re here! I’m hosting a giveaway by Focus Features who contacted me to offer an early screening of the movie and to my readers a copy of the book, a copy of the score, a picnic blanket and a journal. This giveaway is open to all!
I will announce the winners next Friday (October 13th). Best of luck!
Articles I referred to: