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Film / Victoria & Abdul

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Victoria & Abdul is a 2017 British comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears, starring Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Michael Gambon and Olivia Williams.

The film is based on the life of Abdul Karim, "the Munshi" (1863–1909), an Indian attendant of Queen Victoria.

Victoria & Abdul provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: In Glas-allt-Shiel, Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) tells Abdul that she misses John Brown. Later, Lady Churchill says that Abdul is "brown" John Brown. In 1997, Judi Dench played Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, a film about Victoria's relationship with John Brown.
  • As You Know: During the luncheon with Queen Victoria early in the film, a woman seems surprised when the waiters take away their soup before they're finished. A man explains they have to be quick, because as soon as Victoria finishes a course everyone's plates are cleared. Anyone of high enough status to be invited to lunch with the queen would be well aware of this rule, but probably not a large portion of the film's audience.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When she hears that Abdul is married, the Queen is visibly disappointed. She tells Abdul that he must go back immediately to India... to bring his wife to the court.
  • Biopic: The film recounts the life of Abdul Karim, "the Munshi" (1863–1909), from his departure from Agra in 1887 until his return in 1901.
  • Blithe Spirit: An Indian Muslim is introduced to the very conservative British royal court. He teaches the Queen some spiritual values from the Q'uran.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Mohammed gets sick in England. He starts bleeding from the mouth and he dies shortly afterwards.
  • Book Ends: In the first scene and in the last scene, Abdul is in Agra and the Taj Mahal can be seen in the distance.
  • Call-Back: When Abdul presents a jelly to the Queen, he bows and kisses her feet. He kisses her feet again after she dies. In the last scene, he kisses the feet of a statue of Queen Victoria in Agra.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: In the first scene and in the last scene, the Taj Mahal can be seen in the distance, to show that this is Agra, India.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Edward may have been against Victoria’s happiness but he still breaks down when his mother dies.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is based on a 2010 book of the same title by Shrabani Basu.
  • Foreign Queasine: Mohammed finds English food disgusting. In the beginning, he talks about sausages made of pig's blood and brains of sheep. In England, he is disgusted when he hears that gelatine is made of bones of cow.
  • Gratuitous French: The menu of the royal banquet is almost entirely in French.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:Queen Victoria is portrayed as a progressive and sympathetic figure and while Victoria was interested in Indian culture and appointed several Indian servants to her household, her relationship with Abdul was not as intimate as depicted in the film. Additionally, while the film portrays Victoria as critical of imperialism, the real Victoria was quite supportive of it as was common for many leaders of her time.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Prince Edward may seem rather unpleasant in his behaviour towards Abdul but as both he and the household staff point out, his relationship with the Queen is incredibly detrimental to her image.
  • Magical Negro: Abdul Karim, an Indian Muslim, teaches the British Queen, who is depressive, some spiritual values from the Q'uran.
  • May–December Romance: Between Victoria and Abdul, who is more than 40 years younger than her. Downplayed, because the relationship remains platonic, but the Queen is obviously attracted by Abdul's physical appearance (after meeting him for the first time, she notices how handsome he is). At some point, Abdul even tells Victoria that she is more important to him than his wife. Up to that point, the Queen did not know that he was married and she is visibly disappointed to hear it.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Abdul teaches about India, he tells Victoria that the sentence "Here lies Shah Jahan who left this world to the Banquet Hall of Eternity" is written on Shah Jahan's grave. When Victoria is dying, she tells Abdul: "To the Banquet Hall of Eternity."
  • Memento Macguffin: Abdul cherishes a jewel with a portrait of Victoria that the Queen gave to him. In particular after Bertie burned the rest of his souvenirs.
  • Name and Name: Victoria & Abdul.
  • Shout-Out: Victoria laments the death of John Brown, a relationship depicted in Mrs Brown, another film starring Judi Dench as the queen.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: In the end, captions tell that Abdul Karim died nine years later and India became independent in 1947.