The unlikely friendship between Britain’s Queen Victoria – the “Empress of India” – and Abdul Karim, an Indian clerk from Agra, chronicled by writer Shrabani Basu will be made into a film, with Oscar-winning actor Judi Dench playing the queen.
The film is based on Basu’s 2011 book, “Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant”. It will be directed by Stephen Frears with screenplay by Lee Hall.
Basu told Hindustan Times: "I spent four years researching this book, and now the story will reach an even wider audience. It's a great feeling. With Dame Judi Dench playing Queen Victoria, it couldn't get better.”
“Stephen Frears is the perfect director and Lee Hall has written a fabulous screenplay, so I know my book is in safe hands."
Described as tall and handsome, Abdul Karim was 24 when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, who lived from 1819 to 1901. He was an assistant clerk at the Agra Central Jail.
Basu’s book describes how within a year, Karim was established as a powerful figure at court, becoming the queen's teacher, or Munshi, and instructing her in Urdu and Indian affairs. Her intense and controversial relationship with Karim led to a near-revolt in the royal household.
Karim went on to play a central role at the heart of the empire, with influence over the queen at a time when the independence movement in the Indian subcontinent was growing. The relationship has also been described as a tender love story between an ordinary Indian and his elderly queen.
Filming is to begin in September in India, Scotland and the Isle of Wight, producers said.