Unlike the insignificant cameo in his American debut film Furious 7 two years ago, actor Ali Fazal is now making a giant leap in the international film world, with his maiden English movie Victoria and Abdul. Directed by two-time Academy winner Stephen Friers, Victoria & Abdul stars him in the lead role opposite Hollywood veteran Judi Dench. The film’s international trailer came out on Tuesday and is being appreciated for its sensitive portrayal of the relationship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her footman (Ali Fazal). The film is based on true story.
Naturally excited about the film, Ali told mediapersons at its trailer launch that he believes this project would be the turning point in his career. “Everyone has a before and after, I think this film will be that for me.” The actor was chosen from a long list of actors, some of whom are his colleagues, and that made Ali happier about the film.
Also read| EXCLUSIVE Ali Fazal on working with Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul
“It was a proper process. A lady, whose name I can’t take, but I owe it to her. She told me about the auditions. Then I called Nandini, the casting director. The process started. But then 20-25 days passed and I had forgotten about it. One day, I got a call that they have liked me and would want to meet me. It was a long list of names out of which I was selected and I feel really nice about it. There were some of my colleagues, those who I really respect, and to have been picked over them means something.”
Watch| Victoria and Abdul official trailer here
Besides the fact that he is playing the lead in an English film, another obvious high for the young actor was working with Dench, one of the most celebrated international actors and also an Oscar-winner. Talking about the experience, Ali said that she was extremely welcoming towards him and a few days into the shooting, the duo became friends. “The first day we met, we had lunch, just to know each other and break the ice. I was obviously very happy. She is one of the actors we have grown up watching. I touched her feet, hugged her… I was ecstatic. She put me at ease. She was sweet and soon we became friends.”
Of course, as the co-stars exchanged notes during the filming, their conversation often included Indian films. When asked what the veteran thinks of Indian cinema, Ali chose to do a step from a song from Bollywood film Vicky Donor, meaning ‘song-and-dance’. “That’s unfortunate right? We hate it. That’s why I told her that’s not Bollywood. We are much more than that. But she loves India, she has been here. We spoke a lot about Indian food and of course, Bollywood. She, I think, is a little heartbroken that she couldn’t be here. She is hoping to make it to India later. Hope it happens.”
In the last six months, we have had two Bollywood A-listers — Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone — making their Hollywood debuts in big films. The trailers of both xXx and Baywatch were called out for not giving enough screen time to the two Bollywood stars. Deepika and Priyanka assured there would be enough of them in the films- the latter had a proof to show when second trailer of Baywatch was released featuring her prominently.
Reviews of both the movies however, weren’t very positive. While Deepika’s part in xXx was said to be reduced to a “side role”, Baywatch received criticism for underutilising Priyanka, who was its main antagonist. Only time will tell how if Victoria and Abdul does justice as Ali’s full-fledged entry into international cinema, but as far as the trailer goes, Victoria and Abdul shows the actor in almost every scene, sharing the frame with Dench.