Gurinder Chadha is a very unique voice in the film world who always manages to lend a much needed voice to cultures we don’t usually see too much of in mainstream film. “Bend it Like Beckham” was a crowd pleasing comedy drama about cultural conformity and societal pressures, and “Blinded By the Light” follows the same basic platform. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but at the end of Chadha’s comedy drama musical, I found it to be a pleasant diversion with one hell of a great soundtrack. I admit while the film didn’t stick with me, I spent the rest of the night humming Springsteen’s songs in my head.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani teenager who experiences racial and economic turmoil while living with his family in Luton, England, in 1987. He writes poetry as a way to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the stubborn views of his traditional father. While his father urges him to work and make money, Javed is more interested in artistic expression. When a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed instantly connects to the artist’s lyrics as they connect to his own environment involving xenophobia, poverty, racism, and coming of age. Springsteen’s melodies soon inspire Javed to find his own voice in the world and follow his dreams.
“Blinded by the Light” is based on a true story about journalist Sarfraz Manzour who was introduced to Bruce Springsteen’s music and it changed his life. While I imagine “Blinded by the Light” takes some liberties here and there, Chadha explores the magic of how music can connect with us on a level we can’t quite put in to words. When we meet Javek, he can do nothing but watch the world go by as he feels pressure to support his family and shed his love of writing for the sake of making money. Once he begins taking an obsession with Springsteen, it gives him a power that makes him feel larger than life, and he begins to evolve in to a completely different person for better and for worse.
Gurinder Chadha basically combs through most of the catalogue of Springsteen and transforms it in to a character that becomes almost supernatural. She manages to convey Springsteen’s strong lyrics through creative sequences including Javek roaming through his neighborhood as the lyrics for Springsteen’s music is projected on to the walls. That said there isn’t a complete confrontation of some of the themes that Chadha sets up. Javek never really makes a defining move to resolve his stance against the glut of racists in his city, while the whole of the narrative can never decide if it’s paying tribute to what Springsteen represents as an American, or just what Springsteen represents as an artist.
The insertion of musical and dance numbers is also very jarring as the narrative never gets in to the momentum of the genre until the mid-way point. In either case, “Blinded by the Light” is an occasionally sickly sweet but satisfying, crowd pleasing dramedy with an incredible soundtrack and top notch performances.
The release from Warner includes the Blu-Ray and Digital Copy for consumers. Memoir to Movie is an all-encompassing view of the film’s purpose and how and why it was conceived. There are looks at Springsteen’s music as well as some sound bites from the actors with interviews. The Most Crazy Thing is an interview with author Sarfraz Manzoor who gives us an in depth explanation about his book (which the movie is based on), his love for Springsteen’s music and how it inspired him to confront as opposed to escape his life. Finally, there are nearly ten minutes of Deleted and Extended Scenes, all presented in one shot.