“Nothing like this Dame when she plays a Queen,” read a report as the much-awaited 'Victoria and Abdul' premiered in Venice last week. Featuring Dame Judy Dench, and Bollywood hunk Ali Fazal in titular roles, the Stephen Frears creation has people feeling fresh.
Set to be released later this month, the film brings to light the lesser known side of Queen Victoria's life- her relationship with a young clerk from India named Abdul. Ali, who was last seen in 'Happy Bhaag Jayegi', plays Abdul, Victoria's most-trusted Munshi, and friend. In an interview with Asian Voice, ahead of the release, Fazal opened up about the film, his transition, and the “Queen” herself.
What attracted you to the role of Abdul?
The fact that nobody knew about the story. The fact that I didn't know about the story. I felt I should have read about it in my history books in school. But then you don't know anything and you feel cheated in some way. It's a huge time, it almost brings a human side to the most powerful monarch of that time, of history, the richest era in world history- the Victorian Era. The Industrial revolution at its peak, India is going through hell with British Raj and the East India Company. We are straight out of the mutiny. This is one of the most iconic times in history. There is 15 years unknown and it makes you think it has been very conveniently sort of hidden away.
What was it like to work with a legend like Judi Dench?
Wow... uh... Just...wow! I think she is such a generous actor, she is massive! I couldn't have asked for more. I thank my stars and I thank whoever chose me for this part, that I could get to work with her, share notes with her, and make such a wonderful friend. It's almost parallel to the film because this is my first time in London, my first time meeting royalty- Judy Dench. I cherish my time with her.
What was the transition into Hollywood from Bollywood like?
Well, lots of flights! I started with a cameo in 'Furious7' . I got a glimpse of Hollywood then, and now with this film I think the process- just the fact that it is a Stephen Frears film...his films are just different from any other film on this planet. It was wonderful. I have also never been part of a film based on a true story and that itself changes a lot of things. You have to put in work, you have to put in that time, focus, and I am half as good as the work I am talking about. I think I was more focused on the work and not as much on the transition.
How has your career changed after doing the film?
It has pretty much put me on a global stage. It is rare for Indian actors to be able to play such parts so it is definitely a big step on the other side of cinema and I look forward to working on more such exciting stuff.