Inspired by the life experiences of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his passion for the musical stylings of Bruce Springsteen, Blinded by the Light is a veritable apex of joy and brilliantly tells the story of a young man who seeks to overcome his rather parochial existence in order to follow his dreams.
The film is set in Margaret Thatcher’s England of 1987; race relations were tense and the jobless rate was climbing more by the minute. Enter Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager who lives in the town of Luton, Bedfordshire with his immigrant parents, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) and Noor (Meera Ganatra), as well as sisters Yasmeen (Tara Divina) and Shazia (Nikita Mehta). Javed is a fan of modern rock music and yearns to be a writer, but clashes with his traditional-minded father who wishes for him to go into a white collar profession. In addition to writing poetry and keeping a diary, he pens lyrics for his best friend Matt’s (Dean-Charles Chapman) band. Matt usually ends up finding fault in Javed’s work, calling it depressing.
Constantly faced with racism from neighbors and fellow students, he wants more out of life but isn’t quite sure how to get it. Javed comes across the only other South Asian student in the school, Roops (Aaron Phagura), and receives an introduction to something that forever changes the course of his life. A fan of Springsteen, or “The Boss,” Roops gives him two Springsteen cassette tapes and calls the artist “The direct line to all that is true in this shitty world.” Javed doesn’t listen to them right away, having been distracted by a crush on a student named Eliza (Nell Williams) and an increasing desire to pursue writing.
Things soon worsen. Javed is denied the opportunity to write for the school newspaper and Malik gets laid off from work. At his wit’s end about racism and his father’s difficultly connecting with him, he throws away his poems. On the same evening, Javed decides to give the Springsteen tapes a listen and he is instantly overwhelmed by the depth of the lyrics, finding a strong connection. This incident inspires him to continue writing and pursue his dreams.
To say I enjoyed Blinded by the Light is an understatement; I seriously loved every single minute. It’s full of teenage angst and eloquently captures the oft-experienced generational gap between parent and child. I was particularly impressed by Kalra’s performance; he conveyed depth, grit, and an unquenchable passion for music in a most convincing manner. If you’re having a dreary day, go see Blinded by the Light and prepare to be lifted up by the glory of ‘80s music/culture. It’s well worth the price of admission.
I give Blinded by the Light 4 stars.