Inspired by the teenage life of writer Sarfraz Manzoor (Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock’n’ Roll). Gurinder Chadha (Bend it like Beckham) delivers a film of warmth, affection and social commentary on 80’s Britain. That equally shines alongside its Springsteen rich score.
Blinded by the light reimagines the story of Manzoor. Taking his passion for Springsteen and childhood experiences of racism, change, and generational upheaval. While layering the narrative with a pure Fantasia of music. With Gurinder Chadha taking clear inspiration from Billy Elliott in design and structure. Ultimately creating a film that celebrates Springsteens music, while also providing a classic coming of age tale. In talent overcoming the boundaries of community, race, class and place.
Manzoor’s experiences are transferred to the fictional Javed (Viveik Kalra). A British Pakistani young man growing up in Luton during the turbulent social change of 1987. Where Javed longs to further his ambitions in becoming a writer. While spending his time working on poetry and song lyrics for his best friend, Matt (Dean-Charles Chaplin). However, Javed’s true ambitions remain stifled by his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir). Who leads the household, with a pride born of his Pakistani roots. While equally clashing with his children, who strive for generational change. Malik sees Javed’s future as a doctor or lawyer, but certainly not a writer or poet. As he tries to ensure his children progress up the inherent class system of his new country.
Defying his father wishes, Javed signs up for sixth form college to study English Literature. While telling his father he studying law. The college, in turn introducing Javed to a wealth of new experiences and ideas. As he meets fellow outsider Roops (Aaron Phagura). A Springsteen fan who opens up Javed’s world to the writing and music of the ‘Boss’. Unleashing his Javed’s creativity and internal desire for change.
Set against the backdrop of National Front violence and racism, and a segregated community where ethnic minorities felt oppressed yet powerless. Blinded by the Light does not shy away from the social upheaval and change inherent in towns such as Luton during the 1980s. Its social commentary dovetailing with the generational change and aspiration building in migrant communities. Where many second and third generation children saw their lives as mix of cultures. The internal battle of their parental ancestry and British identity giving rise to family and social change.
In fact, it is here that Blinded By Light pays homage to earlier films like Billy Elliott in its pace, design and implementation. Javed’s journey echoing Billy’s passion for dance. While replacing it with a passion for writing, poetry and music. While Billy’s feelings of being trapped by his class and community. Are in turn replaced with Javed’s family restrictions, racial oppression and place of birth. Javed’s awakening to the words and music of Springsteen during the famous storm of 1987. Matching Billy’s anger and frustration as he danced across the terrace walls of his Durham village.
However, despite these similarities Blinded By Light maintains a fresh feeling. With a truly joyous exploration of the power of music, words and self expression in the face of social boundaries. While the music of Springsteen, blazes a trail of hope and aspiration that can’t help but warm even the coldest of hearts.
Performances enhance the warmth, energy and vibrance of Blinded By Light, building characters you truly believe in. While showing the depth and emotion of teenage life, parental conflict and the desperate need for change and group identity. The global power of music and imagination shining from the factories of New Jersey. To the car assembly plants and emerging new communities of South Bedfordshire.
Director: Gurinder Chadha