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Blinded By The Light: An Unexpected yet Powerful Homage to Creativity, and, of course, Bruce Springsteen

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Official Preview Trailer for Blinded By The Light Photo / Warner Brothers

In a perfect world, this film, which is about a young man trying to find a way to transcend his apparent destiny, will itself rise above the barriers that are likely to stand in its way. So far the writers, filmmakers and cast, have done exactly that.

The story is of Javed, a young Pakistani living with his family in Luton, England, a working class town about 40 miles north of London. His life changes, seemingly overnight, once he is introduced by a school-mate to the songs of Bruce Springsteen, an unlikely obsession in 1987, post new-wave Britain. 

Ultimately, the star of the movie is not Bruce Springsteen, or even his music. Although the Director Gurinder Chadha has had successes, most notably with “Bend it like Beckham” it is not an obvious combination – a British Indian filmmaker taking on a film that is a full-on homage to New Jersey’s greatest songwriter. 

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And yet, the pairing is in its own way, perfect. An uplifting spirit of joy permeates the tone of the film. There’s a lightness that illuminates the dark, sometimes serious themes, as the young man discovers some of Springsteen’s darkest most emotional songs, and makes them uplifting and entertaining. The lack of “known stars” is a actually a plus as the focus is on the meaning of the interactions and life struggles of the characters, not the embodiment lent to them by a known face. 

Javed played with a perfect sense of discovery and awe by Viveik Kalra in “Blinded By The Light” Photo / Warner Brothers

Independence Day, and Universal Struggles Between Generations and Cultures

Based on a memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor the film is a fervent paean, not only to Springsteens genius for emotional and cinematic storytelling through his lyrics and music, but to all the struggles of people, all over the globe, that know the desire and struggle for something in life that appears always just out of reach

The battles and strife that arises between Javed (played with a perfect sense of discovery and awe by Viveik Kalra) and his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) echos the deep and dramatic conflicts that Springsteen often wrote about in his music. The deep sadness of those conflicts are not delved deeply into, since the story is about the amazing positive influence art can have, particularly on this young man.

Now I don’t know what it always was with us 
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines 
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us 
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind 


Well say goodbye it’s Independence Day 
It’s Independence Day all boys must run away 
So say goodbye it’s Independence Day 
All men must make their way come Independence Day 

-Independence Day, By Bruce Springsteen

The influence of the artist, seemingly a world away on the Jersey Shore, on a Pakistani youth struggling though life in working class England, feels at times as an expression profound beauty and deep feeling.

If you know Springsteen’s stories and songs, you can completely understand why his music resonates so completely with Javed, who dreams of being a poet and a writer, and even with his fellow Springsteen fanatic friend that introduced him to this new and magical world.

The bleakness of the songs is, at the same time, powerful and uplifting, implying hope in a hopeless world, and strength to rise above the past and the shackles of “today’s world” whether “today” refers to 1987 in a small industrial town in Britain or to 2019 in any town, planet earth. 

Well there’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm 
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down 
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground 
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart 
Blow away the dreams that break your heart 
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted 
The dogs on main street howl
‘Cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands 
Mister, I ain’t a boy, no, I’m a man
And I believe in a promised land 
And I believe in a promised land
And I believe in a promised land

Promised Land, by Bruce Springsteen

That Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir could, righteously and with the blessing of The Boss, make it to the silver screen, and that people seeing the film here in the US are watching it, is a homecoming of sorts. A boomerang of hope and desire, sent out through the airwaves as a Springsteen recording and making it’s way through the life and times of a young man in the UK, then, an entire generation later, back to the USA and, perhaps, offering some young people here and wherever the film is seen, a chance to carry further that same aching desire for something better. 

Some way to rise above these “badlands”.

For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me I wanna find one place I wanna spit in the face of these
Badlands, you gotta live it everyday Let the broken hearts stand As the price you’ve gotta pay Keep movin’ ’til it’s understood And these badlands start treating us good

– Badlands, By Bruce Springsteen
Condensed Preview Video Plus Interview Segment with Sarfraz Manzoor

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