While shooting in Agra earlier this week for his big international project Victoria & Abdul directed by British auteur Stephen Frears actor Ali Fazal and his British crew were heckled accosted and threatened by crowd of protestors who descended suddenly.
“They virtually showed up from nowhere , these protesters. It was the last day of our shooting in Agra and we were shooting near the Taj Mahal, when about 50 people descended on the spot shouting , ‘Victoria Murdabad,’ Can you believe it?” shudders and laughs Ali.
The objection was to a statue of Queen Victoria that was put up for the shooting.
“This is a scene from the beginning and the end of the film. I was made up as a very old Abdul. It was a poignant scene,disrupted by a most unwarranted intrusion,” says Ali sadly.
Being the only Indian in the crew it was a special embarrassment for Ali Fazal. “It was almost as if I was a host to the crew. When something like this happens in front of foreigners we Indians are shamed. When this situation happened I felt deeply mortified. Luckily the safety of the British crew was never an issue. We were well looked after. Only the shooting got disrupted for 3-4 hours.And there was some tension amongst us.”
Luckily Judi Dench who plays the other title role was not in this shooting. “Her character is supposed to be no more when we were shooting in Agra. I can only be grateful that she wasn’t around to witness my embarrassment due to this absurd protest. But Judi has been to India for shooting and for visits enough times to know that protests can erupt anywhere anytime in this country.”