By Michael Renouf
Blinded by the Light is a charming and thoughtful coming of age drama set in the world of a teenage Pakistani growing up in the austere times of Britain in 1987.
Javed, played by Viveik Karla – one of a number of the cast for whom this is their debut in a feature film – is trying to find his place in the world. Although he and his family receive racist abuse from National Front Neanderthals, his best friend is Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman), a white boy trying to help him in the pursuit of the fairer sex.
When Javed starts college he literally bumps into a Sikh called Roops (Aaron Phagura) who introduces him to the music of one of Asbury Park’s favorite sons – Bruce Springsteen.
From this moment on Javed becomes obsessed with The Boss’s music and his life is transformed as he comes out of his shell. When he is any awkward situation he uses Springsteen’s lyrics as inspiration and a guiding light, so much so he stands up to racist bullies, his father with his inveterate values (who bullies him in a different way without meaning to) and even gets a girlfriend – all of this without Matt’s help.
He has written poems – he longs to be a writer – but for a long time kept them to himself. With his newly found courage he shows his teacher who is duly impressed. This enables director Gurinder Chadha to shoehorn in a visit to Asbury Park including the iconic Stone Pony and show us a few other locations with links to Bruce.
This film not only presents the difficulty of settling and being accepted in a foreign land but also the flip side, as Javed’s dad (Kalvinder Ghir who previously worked with the director in Bend It Like Beckham) does nothing to integrate into the country he now calls home and expects his children to be the same, despite the fact they have spent their formative years in Luton and not Lahore. This is the cause of much tension between Javed and his father who only understands traditional Pakistani behavior and when he loses his job, things can only get worse as now he cannot fulfill one of his major principals of working hard to provide for his family.
The movie does an excellent job of reflecting the time period (I was a teenager in England during the 80’s) and has plenty of visual references to other popular musicians of the era such as Michael Jackson, Madness and Dexys Midnight Runners along with Eliza’s dad channeling his inner Basil Fawlty from the fantastic comedy series Fawlty Towers – if you have not seen it I implore you to find a way to watch it.
Based on journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s book, Greetings from Bury Park (whose title was no doubt inspired by Springsteen’s first album – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.) this is a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
There really is only one contender for this week’s star of the show – Bruce’s songs – and by the end of the film Javed can rightly say ‘Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man.’
4 out of 5
A fun way to spend a couple of hours with Springsteen songs
A charming and thoughtful coming of age drama set in the world of a teenage Pakistani growing up in the austere times of Britain in 1987.