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    The last time we interviewed Ali Fazal, the Furious 7 star had admitted to a second Hollywood project in the pipeline, but had kept mum on the details. However, now with the film in its pre-production stage, he talks to us about director Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Abdul (working title), which will see him with Academy award-winning actress, Dame Judi Dench, in the titular roles. With Fukrey 2 also on the cards, the Mumbai-based actor is happy with his packed schedule and will be seen by the end of the year in Prakash Raj’s Hindi directorial debut, Tadka.

    With the queen
    Fazal, who was in the country to promote his last outing, the romantic comedy Happy Bhaag Jayegi (which released last week),  has now returned to London for his “dream role”.  He tells us that at his first interaction with the 81-year-old Dench, he touched her feet before he began the conversation. “We met, we chilled, we spoke a lot about India, the script, about everything… she is very sweet and she is very fond of India,” he shares. Dench will be essaying the role of Queen Victoria for the second time on the big screen (the first was in the Oscar-nominated role in Mrs Brown).

    Director’s code
    Fazal is particularly excited about working with Frears, who he feels is one of the finest directors in the industry. On what he loves the most about the High Fidelity director, he quips, “He has a brilliant style of attracting beautiful and very politically and historically important subjects and finding a flip side or finding humour in them.”

    Role call
    The film, which is based on author Shrabani Basu’s 2010 novel, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, tells the story of Abdul Karim (Fazal), an attendant to Queen Victoria (Dench), and the unlikely bond they shared. Karim went on to become the Empress’ munshi (teacher) and her confidante, with their growing alliance in constant scrutiny by her household. The 29-year-old actor, who says that he is not taking Basu’s book as a reference, had sent in a screen test two-and-a-half-months back but didn’t expect to land the role. “It was very last minute and everyone had said it’s over and they have stopped casting in India,” he says. But he finally heard back from them and what followed were readings with the director and casting directors, and some back-and -forth from London as “they just wanted to be very sure.”
    Meanwhile, talking about Fukrey 2, he says, “The principal cast remains the same. There are interesting entries that will be seen this time. The stakes are up, way higher than the first one, so it’s going to be fun.”

    Fukrey 2 and Victoria and Abdul are slated for a 2017 release.

    — Simar Bhasin

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