Whilst movies and great stories are part of my every day, music was my first love and so films that merge iconic music with a brilliant, entertaining and insightful narrative are right up my street and, if you’re wondering, Blinded by the Light fits that aforementioned microcosm effortlessly.
Inspired by both the music and words of Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen, the film is also based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor, a very personal tale of 16-year-old British Pakistani boy, Javed (expertly played by Viveik Kalra) who grew up in Luton back in 1987. Co-adapted into a screenplay by Manzoor with director Gurinder Chadha, a filmmaker who often finds unique stories and presents them in original ways, and with Blinded by the Light she’s succeeded once again in bringing forth a joyous tale.
As Javed begins to find himself slightly out of the middle of every ‘group’ of people around him at school, including his best friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) who’s picked up a girlfriend, he’s introduced to the cassettes (oh yes!) of Bruce Springsteen by Aaron Phagura’s Roops, a young lad who’s obsessed with The Boss and eager to try and change someone else’s’ life.
The thing is, Javed is also a writer and trying to find his way into the world however he can, already writing poetry for himself and lyrics for his mate Matt. However, he’s feeling blocked in by family circumstance and cliques that aren’t giving him the platform he’s more than ready to step up onto, despite encouragement from those around him and his teacher Ms Clay, played by the enigmatic Hayley Atwell. What changes everything is: The music and lyrics of Springsteen, the tapes he’s listening to have an almost instant inspiration and while the stories may seem miles away, his life is reflected in what he’s listening to and it opens up his heart and mind.
While Blinded by the Light does comment on racism and the social impacts of being a Pakistani family in the late 80s, Chadha’s wider focus is on the life-changing influence of Springsteen on Javed and his individual life. That being said, it’s also interesting that this is an important, if subtle, representation of things I’ve seen in the wider political world re-occurring once again. Not only is it a comment on fellow people just wanting to be themselves but she also highlights the family struggles and in particular Javed’s Father Malik (Portrayed by Kulvinder Ghir who gives a very poignant performance) psychological fight with British society coming from a very different background. In Luton, he didn’t want the family to stand out whereas Javed is ready to take on his life and show him for who he truly is, an individual.
So, as we follow Javed, we’re with him all the way as Bruce’s lyrics eventually motivate him to find his own voice, take on his life by the scruff of the neck and find young love with Nell Williams’ Eliza. This pair spark with great chemistry, she’s supportive and her own person, and you really feel the connection and – quite equally – understand its place in the story.
Blinded by the Light is genuinely joyful throughout, it’s a welcome story in these current times – where many will make you believe everyone is out to get you – and also expertly crafted by the entire cinematic team. This is one for all generations that’ll lift your spirit and offer a whole lot of hope, which is just what we need.
Blinded by the Light comes to Blu-ray and DVD on 9 December. Order now: https://amzn.to/2P12y1B
- Audio commentary with Director/ Writer Gurinder Chadha and Writer Sarfraz Manzoor
- Sundance Featurette