Victoria & Abdul (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 23, 2017 by  

Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul” is a delightful film based on the true story of Queen Victoria and her servant, Abdul Karim.  Featuring a wonderful performance by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, “Victoria & Abdul” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Victoria & Abdul


DURATION: 1 hr. and 51 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (2:40:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol, Francais

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment


RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2017

Based on the book by Shebani Basu

Directed by Stephen Frears

Screenplay by Lee Hall

Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Beeban Kidron, Tracey Seaward

Executive Producer: Liza Chasin, Amelia Granger, Lee Hall, Christine Langan, Joe Oppenheimer

Associate Producer: Lucas Webb

Music by Thomas Newman

Cinematographer: Danny Cohen

Edited by Melanie Oliver

Production Design by Alan MacDonald

Art Direction by Sarah Finlay, Adam Squires

Costume Design by Consolata Boyle


Judi Dench as Queen Victoria

Ali Fazal as Abduk Karim

Tim Pigott-Smith as Sir Henry Ponsonby

Eddie Izzard as Bertie, Prince of Wales

Adeel Akhtar as Mohammed

Michael Gambon as Lord Salisbury

Paul Higgins as Dr. Reid

Olivia Williams as Lady Churchill

Fenella Woolgar as Miss Phipps

Julian Wadham as Alick Yorke

Robin Soans as Arthur Bigge

Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Tuck

Simon Callow as Puccini

The extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s (Academy Award winner Judi Dench) remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.

Filmmaker Stephen Frears is well-known for films such as “Dangerous Liaisons”, “The Queen” and “Dirty Pretty Things” has a film now available on Blu-ray and DVD titled “Victoria & Abdul” which he directed and features a screenplay from Lee Hall (“Billy Elliott”, “War Horse”) and based on the book of the same name by Shrabani Basu.

And the film revolves around one of the biggest surprises that took place over a 115 years ago thanks to the discovery by journalist Shrabani Basu, who was touring Queen Victoria’s Isle of Wight summer home in 2003 and saw paintings and a bust of an Indian servant named Abdul Karim.

When Basu went to Windsor Castle to look at Victoria’s Hindustani journals, journals never opened for a hundred years revealed this like mother and son relationship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim.  And it wasn’t until a family member gave Basu a few of Abdul Karim’s journals, did Basu realize how deep of a relationship Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim had for nearly a decade.

But also the racism that he received while the Queen was alive and what happened after she died.  All documented in his book “Victoria & Abdul” which received a film adaptation and positive critic reviews.

And now, “Victoria & Abdul” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

The film begins with Abdul Karim, a young prison clerk from Agra, India, receiving instructions to travel to England for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 to present her with a mohur, a token of appreciation from what was then, British-ruled India.

The Queen is lonely, bored and not really enjoying the people of her surroundings, including her family.  But when Abdul comes to visit her, he surprises her by kissing her feet.

From that moment on, she asks Abdul to visit her, against the recommendations of her family and servants and when she sees his sincerity and his passion for life, she promotes him to become her Munshi (servant) and she becomes his guardian.

Curious about Indian culture, she requests for Abdul to teach her Urdu and the Qur’an.  But to her children and those who work around her, they are not as approving to the Queen’s decisions, nor how much time she is spending with Abdul and they begin to show their dissent towards him.


“Victoria & Abdul” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film shows great detail on closeups and low-light situations are presented well. Colors are natural and for the most part, the film looks very good in HD.


“Victoria & Abdul” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and while the film is primarily dialogue-driven. Surround channels are more for ambiance during scenes with crowds but primarily, it’s a film that focuses more on the dialogue.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.


“Victoria & Abdul” comes with following special feature:

  • Judi & Ali – A short featurette on the working relationship of Judi Dench and Ali Fazal.
  • The Look of Victoria & Abdul – How far costume designers and make-up artists were in trying to make the characters similar to their real life counterpart.


“Victoria & Abdul” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code and DVD.

When I first read about Shebani Basu’s “Victoria & Abdul”, I was shocked, surprised but then after a few minutes of thinking and realizing the state of the world, perceptions of other cultures and rampant racism, I realized that I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Watching Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul”, what we have is a fascinating story of Queen Victoria, at a time where she’s bored with her life as her health was not at its best, the people around her were constricting, including her family who were more interested in vying for power and fame.

It was until she met Abdul Karim, someone who was so very much different from everyone around her.  As an Indian man, different ethnicity, different levels of communication and for the most part, Abdul was sincere in his treatment towards Queen Victoria.  He was her servant, he did his utmost best to be loyal to her.  No matter how badly he was treated by the Queen’s children or those around her, his life at the time was indebted to her.

And “Victoria & Abdul” is a film about how these two very different people became friends, a family-type relationship in which she was like a mother to a son, who listened best to his mother and was able to teach her something new, something different and its what made this relationship special.

Of course, as Queen Victoria did so much for Abdul Karim and his family during the ten years he was a servant to her, her family did so much to destroy anything that would link the Queen to her servant.  Burning journals and photos but because Abdul had taught Queen Victoria about his culture and language, including how to write, those documents (because no one could read them), were what existed including Abdul’s journals handed down to family members.

The film is well-made and the acting performance by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal are wonderful, the costume design and overall cinematography was equally fantastic to watch.   There was nothing that I found to make the film slow or boring, the storyline had a smooth flow, was entertaining and for the most part, “Victoria & Abdul” told the true story of admirable respect of the Queen and her servant, both protective for each other but at the same time, both knowing the fragility of this relationship due to those of the outside who were against it.

While Queen Victoria adopted the title of Empress of India and while racism was rampant towards Indians at that time, it’s important to note that there was war between India and the British.  The Indians had numerous rebellions against the invasive British-style social reforms thrust upon them but with that being said, it was a platform that many had to use to justify their hatred towards the Indian people due to the number of deaths attributed to the hostile rebellion. At the time, those emotions ran heavy through the late 1800s to the 1900s.

And it was because they were different, they were looked at as inferior and treated as such.  And each time, the Queen would elevate Abdul Karim’s status, it would cause problems among the royal family and those around her.  Her assistant private secretary, Fritz Ponsonby, trying to get any information to have Abdul discredited.

It made them uncomfortable to the point that nearly all that worked for her, were going to walk out on her and even forced her son, King Edward and her daughter, Princess Beatrice to issue all palace guards destroy all correspondence and erase any record of their relationship.

Despite the hardship that Abdul endured, from his writings that he left behind, he remained loyal to the Queen/Empress and his words about her were for the utmost respect and the film reflects that perfectly.

The picture quality of the Blu-ray release is fantastic.  Closeups are full of detail, while lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue.  The Blu-ray features two short special features.

Overall, Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul” is a delightful film based on the true story of Queen Victoria and her servant, Abdul Karim.  Featuring a wonderful performance by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, “Victoria & Abdul” is recommended!

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