While it’s entirely possible to be inspired and moved by a movie, book or other forms of entertainment, there’s just something special about music that allows it to reach the heart like no other medium. Now, not all music touches everyone, but when a song plays that just reaches down and speaks to your soul, well, you know it. It resonates and you’ll likely play it on repeat, memorize it and possibly use it to help push yourself forward in life or to help deal with the tough hand you’ve been dealt because you know you’re not alone. This song, and possibly this artist’s other works speak to you and nothing and nobody can take that connection away from you.
Blinded by the Light is based on the memoir “Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll” by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, though it takes creative liberties, adds characters and various situations to make it work as a movie. Manzoor co-wrote the script alongside Gurinder Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges, making sure that the themes and heart of the film were true to his story, even though the lead character’s name is Javed and not Sarfraz.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a young British-Pakistani who is reaching a crossroads in life as he heads to college in the dismal town of Luton. Well, that’s presumptuous of me to say as I’ve never been to Luton and I’m sure it isn’t all that bad; but to Javed, it’s a dead-end town that smothers hopes and dreams the longer you stay. The year is 1987 and racial tensions are also high in Luton, with white supremacists making it clear that Javed’s kind isn’t welcome there, and on top of this, Javed’s father is a strict Pakistani dad who believes the entire family should contribute to their bills and that hard work and reputation is the key to success.
While he’s not wrong on the last two points, the way he holds that over Javed puts a wedge between them. Javed wants to be a writer but knows his father would never approve. So while his father thinks he’s going to school for economics, Javed is actually enrolled in English trying to do something for himself – even though he’s hesitant to truly believe his own writing is good enough to get him anywhere.
That begins to change when he befriends fellow student Roops (Aaron Phagura), who lends Javed his two Bruce Springsteen cassettes and tells him to guard them with his life. After a fight with his dad, and feeling defeated as a writer, Javed throws out his poems that he’s been writing all his life and sits alone in his room. He then notices the cassettes and places one in his Walkman, hits play and his life changes forever.
The scene that follows sets the tone for the rest of the film, as director Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham) brilliantly handles the lyrics of Springsteen wrapping themselves around Javed’s entire being in that moment, making the smart decision to have important parts of the lyrics appear on the screen around Javed while he moves to the beats around his house. While he moves from room to room, we see the hardships that he and his family are going through to try and make ends meet, each one making Javed more determined to escape this place and become a writer. It’s a truly wonderful sequence that allows the music to tell the story of Javed’s thoughts while Javed expresses his feelings through dance and simply letting the words flow through him. It really does showcase how a song can just speak to you instantaneously and during that time, nothing else can touch you.
These types of fantastical scenes happen a few more times throughout, where something similar is likely happening in reality; however, we see the scenes through Javed singing, or he and his friends dancing to the beats throughout the school in a more metaphorical sense to the escape that The Boss’s music is providing them at this influential time in their lives. They’re great moments that help propel the story forward in fun fashion.
The father/son dynamic between Javed and his dad, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) is fantastic, with wonderful chemistry between the two actors to the point where their relationship is completely believable. This is vital, as without that, no amount of singing or dancing would stop the film from falling flat. Luckily, there’s no denying that these two and their relationship is the heart of the film, and the songs from Springsteen are both literally and figuratively the beat.
At almost two-hours in length, the film does feel a bit long in the tooth at times, sometimes feeling a little redundant. This isn’t a make or break thing, it’s just that it feels like even trimming 10 minutes could’ve tightened it up without really losing anything. That said, if you’re a fan of coming-of-age stories and characters breaking out into song and dance to Springsteen every so often doesn’t deter you, then Blinded by the Light is a really touching film about family and the importance of believing in yourself even if all hope seems lost because you can’t start a fire without a spark, and that spark can take on many forms. You just need to keep your eyes – and ears – open so you don’t miss it.
The movie looks great on Blu-ray, with sharp visuals that work well with the emotions being portrayed from scene to scene. During the impactful introduction to Springsteen, we’re taking from the house to Javed walking outside in his neighbourhood as the lyrics are shone on the side of his complex. Everything is clear, even though the scene is darker. No muddy blacks or distracting distortion. This goes for the rest of the film as well on the picture front.
In terms of audio, well, that’s make or break as well for many movies, but especially ones centered around music. Luckily, the movie sounds fantastic, and Springsteen’s songs blast out beautifully through the speakers in surround sound, fully immersing the viewer in what Javed is experiencing emotionally at the time.
Memoir to Movie – The first behind-the-scenes type featurette is six-minutes in length and sees both Gurinder and Sarfraz talking about the film, bringing it to life and the steps it took to do so. It’s a fun, quick watch, but there isn’t too much to it.
The Most Crazy Thing – The second featurette is seven minutes in length and focuses more on Sarfraz, his growing up and how his dad actually died when he was in his early 20s, so the story that takes place in the movie is more of a love letter to his dad saying things he was never able to say when he was around. We also get to learn a bit more about how obsessed he is with Springsteen as well.
Deleted/Extended Scenes — For those interested, there are also some moments that hit the cutting room floor included as well.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Blinded by the Light. Directed by: Gurinder Chadha. Written by: Sarfraz Manzoor, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges. Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Kit Reeve, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura. Running time: 118 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Nov. 19., 2019.
Tags: Blinded by the Light, Bruce Springsteen, Gurinder Chadha, Kulvinder Ghir, Sarfraz Manzoor, Viveik Kalra