This Friday marks the release of the latest film from acclaimed director Stephen Frears, Victoria & Abdul, and to mark the release we sat down with some of the cast, including the film’s new star Ali Fazal. Based on a story that was not known until recently, it sees Fazal’s Ali come to England and soon become a trusted ally of Queen Victoria, played by Oscar Winner Judi Dench.
The film marks one of Fazal’s first forays away from his Bollywood roots and while that comes with its own trepidations, working with Dench wasn’t one of them with Fazal saying that she was a joy to work with:
“I couldn’t have asked for more, right? She’s a legend and she’s so generous and easy to work with. There was never one day or one moment of intimidation or anything daunting – it was just two people having a conversation, learning our lines together.”
Outside of the relationship that Abdul shares with Victoria, he has to deal with an onslaught from those around the Queen including her son, Bertie, played with menace and gusto by Eddie Izzard. Determined to keep their relationship as icy as it was on-screen, Izzard stayed clear of Fazal as much as possible and the actor says it was fascinating to watch a different side to the comedian:
“I’m a fan of Eddie’s so it was weird to see him in this different outfit with the beard and the belly and everything. And you don’t want to really hate him because of him but that was the part, and it was interesting to see so many methods ways that these actors brought to set and then there was Judi with her ways – I was just taking it all in wherever I could.”
The film, while a touching and important story in its own right, is released at a time when such a story could go a long way to healing some of the wounds currently sitting across the world. Fazal, who himself wasn’t aware of the story beforehand, says he hopes that audiences take away some important messages from the film, saying:
“You wouldn’t think about it when filming and suddenly afterward you see it. It fits, if you remove the costumes and the date it’s all there. there was racism, there’s racism now… I hope people see through all the royal and cultural stuff and just see what these guys really stood for. They saw the human side in each other, they intellectually stimulated each other and they shared things – and that’s rare, it’s rare to really use the words love and hope because they’ve become the most cliched and overused words but I think it’s important.”
Victoria & Abdul opens in UK cinemas on September 15th.