Mumbai: "Victoria & Abdul", about Queen Victoria befriending Indian servant Abdul Karim, seems to have offended Indian critics for not taking into view the ugliness of the British Raj. Actor Ali Fazal, who is a bit baffled by the backlash, says he has formed an enduring friendship with iconic actress Judi Dench.
Ali, who is shooting for "Mirzapur" in Varanasi and turned a year older on Sunday, said: "What is the fuss about? Abdul is a character I play. And everything he does in the film including kissing the Queen's feet actually happened. I've read the real Abdul Karim's letters to Queen Victoria. They are simply wonderful, truly inspiring. I was very moved by his devotion to the Queen."
Ali feels it's wrong to impute colonial responsibilities on his role and performance.
"We are all responsible actors. I take full responsibility for my performances. But the behaviour or political leanings of my characters are not in my hands. As far as I can see, Abdul is a bit of an opportunist. He sees the Queen as a means to climb socially. And what is wrong with that?
"We all want to move upwards in life. But I also know Abdul cared deeply for Queen Victoria... And to my good fortune, I've formed a relationship with Judi Dench, which I hope is enduring as the one we share in the film."
Ali feels both Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim were misunderstood by their contemporaries and are being misread by a section of the audience.
"All he ever wanted was to make her happy. And she found an impetus to live through him in her dying years."
Ali spent a lot of time getting to know Judi during the shooting and afterwards while promoting the film.
"We were together a lot of time not just while shooting but also while promoting the film. I saw how much affection and warmth she showered on me in our international interactions. It kind of affected me deeply."
Ali intends to keep his friendship with Dench going.
"I think somewhere, we are bonded much beyond one film. I will be seeing her again in November and I am sure it will be just the same then as it is now. We share the same manager. So, there is plenty of opportunity for us to run into one another. I think I've formed a lifelong friendship with Judi Dench."