Blinded By the Light
“Blinded By the Light” is a narrative feature film about a Pakistani male teenager trying to assimilate into British society in 1987. His strict father holds his Pakistani roots tightly and doesn’t let anyone else have independent views. Plagued by racism and pressured to become a lawyer or doctor, Javed, played wonderfully by Vivek Kalra, writing since an early age, wants to make a living as a writer. Javed abandons his Pakistani roots after being introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Why Bruce Springsteen? When Javed asks his new friend, Roops, ‘Who’s the boss?’ Roops responds, “He’s the boss of us all.” An American pop icon. And nothing says American pop culture more than Bruce Springsteen. Although the story takes place in England, Javed’s desire to break free from his surroundings is the American spirit. Writer-Director Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) and additional writers, Paul Mayeda Berges, and Sarfraz Manzoor wrote about Manzoor’s experiences growing up Pakistani in England. Chandra was also a ‘Bruce’ fan. Springsteen’s songs were often about hard-working families getting through the tough times.
The film follows a universal message inspired by Bruce Springsteen, ‘No one wins unless everybody wins.’ Bruce treats people equally and lifts them up. In a Rolling Stone Magazine interview, Chadha says, “…we all stand side by side, and it’s not an us or them – we’re all in it together. And that’s what I think the majority of people want to raise their kids to know. That’s what makes us human. And Bruce is all about empathy.”
There are a few scenes that break into song and transform into a musical with dance routines and it totally works. It’s not all Bruce songs. Javed makes a deal with his sister to take her to a club where everyone enters and changes out of their ‘school clothes’ and into sparkling club-wear. A disc jockey plays popular Middle Eastern 80’s music. It shocks Javed to see his sister all decked out. And then he learns she’s seeing this young boy. This becomes another secret these siblings keep from their family. Their older sister gets married through a traditional arrangement between families.
Some liberalities were taken. Apparently, journalist Sarfraz Manzoor did not have a girlfriend at the time. He also never talked back to his father to the extent the character does in the film. These additional elements heighten the stakes and build deeper levels in the story.
The film is also a sad reminder that racism and xenophobia were prevalent in the 80’s, but unfortunately that has not changed today. In the film, it’s mentioned how open and free America is or was. So much hatred has come out of the woodwork in America in the last few years that it’s a bit ironic. This is why more films about people from different backgrounds is vital to America and the world. The more the world sees that we’re all just people trying to find good jobs and live together in peace the less likely we’ll hate each other. Because…’Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.’