Based on a memoir by journalist and broadcaster Sarfraz Manzoor and infused with the music of The Boss, Blinded by the Light is an earnest and entertaining coming-of-age story about one kid’s attempt to fit in.
Most unassuming fans of the song Blinded by the Light have no idea that was originally written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen on his debut album in 1973. To most people it’s a popular Manfred Mann single from ’77, which still receives heavy radio rotation today. This fact makes the title of director Gurinder Chadha’s new film a perplexing point of reference, considering the abundance of Springsteen titles free for the picking.
Director Chadha has forged a career telling stories of multiculturalism and Indian culture, with films like Bend it Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice and Viceroy’s House. Blinded by the Light is the story of Javed (Viveik Kalra), a teenage British Pakistani whose low income-earning family struggles to integrate in Luton, England, during the late 1980s. Torn between two cultures, he finds solace in the music of Bruce Springsteen, whose lyrics relate to his own personal woes.
Following a wave of band-focused, music-infused dramas like Rocketman and Yesterday, Blinded by the Light feels more akin to the modest musings of Spike Island, Sing Street and Wild Rose.
Kalra leads the film with a wonderful performance that successfully reconciles the two cultures that vie for his attention. Veteran comedic actor Kulvinder Ghir plays Javed’s stern father, whose traditional values threaten to destroy their relationship. His is a show-stealing turn that best embodies the film’s message of generational diversity and the importance of family.
Boasting an energetic 1980s flavour and weaving Springsteen’s music throughout with infectious stamina, Blinded by the Light provides another nostalgic reflection of a not-too-distant past, where the positives and negatives of the time are represented in equal measure.
In cinemas: October 24, 2019
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Kit Reeve
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha