Abdul Karim is working as a clerk in India when he is chosen to travel to England and present a commemorative coin to Queen Victoria for her Golden Jubilee. Once there, he stumbles into a close relationship with the Queen and becomes her teacher, or Munshi. The household staff is loath to accept both his race and social status. Nevertheless, Victoria builds a close relationship with him, even sending for Abdul’s wife and family and giving him a cottage to live in. Things come to a head when the Queen falls ill as her son and his allies plot to send the Munshi back to India.
2017, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 51 mins
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Tim Pigott-Smith
Directed by Stephen Frears
Victoria & Abdul is unquestionably a British period drama but its first half is lighter fare than most films of the genre. The story is based on true events, but even the creators add the qualifier “mostly” during the opening credits. Things turn a bit dark as the household staff along with Victoria’s son try every which way to remove Abdul from her side.
She stands up to them brilliantly and steadfastly until her health takes a turn for the worse. Though it’s not made clear, the actual timeframe spans 19 years, though history records a 15-year relationship between the two. There are plenty of social messages about racism and the political situation between England and India in the late 19th century. Let’s just say it was not the Crown’s finest hour and the film makes that point clearly. Overall, the movie is entertaining and I’d certainly watch it again.
The image is clean and free of artifacts but I found color and contrast to be a bit pale. There aren’t many scenes featuring deep blacks and the palette has a somewhat hazy look, no doubt to depict the period more effectively.
Dialog is the star of this transfer and it is recorded and mixed to perfection. I had no difficulty understanding any of the heavy accents used by the different actors. While the dynamic range is somewhat limited, it did not detract from the presentation.
Bonus features are limited to two short featurettes on the principal actors and production design concepts. There is a lot of newly-found history here that begs for a longer documentary. An educational opportunity has been missed.