Blinded by the Light from director Gurinder Chadha is based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoirs of his childhood when he discovers Bruce Springsteen’s music. The music is a springboard for dreams and hope for a better future.
If there’s one constant to our universe that ties us together, it’s music.
Music has the power to lift our souls to a different plane of existence. It has the power to bring us together. And yet, music doesn’t accomplish these things on its own. It takes a combined community to find the power in the words; to find a common direction forward.
In the case of Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), it had the power to shape his direction forward.
And that’s what Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light examines.
Chadha intentionally starts the film out with a young Javed and his friend, Matt. The items that occupy this early sequence define Javed’s world; his struggles to find a voice, to fill a void that is sorely lacking in his life. Visually, we’re treated to Javed and Matt on a bluff overlooking the M1 highway leading south to London, where they eventually dream of finding their true calling.
By starting the film out this way, Chadha gives us hope.
However, as an early teenager, Javed’s life is anything but full of hope.
Based on the novel, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor, Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) takes us into a world fueled by the economics and politics of the mid-1980s. Javed is all too aware of the world’s condition for the time. These are facts that should not affect Javed as a teenager, but the hard conditions along with a strict upbringing serve to stymie his dreams.
Manzoor, who co-wrote the Blinded by the Light script with Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges (Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice) uses the external strife to drive the character forward toward a better purpose. Though his friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) is the epitome of what Javed strives to be, he quickly realizes that his path lies in a different direction.
With school, Chadha correctly gives Javed an outlet for his creative interests, which run counter to what his father, Malik (Kuvinder Ghir) would approve of. The family dynamic is as critical to who Javed is as much as the external forces are. Malik is a line employee at Vuxhall factory, his mother, Noor (Meera Ganatra) a homemaker and a seamstress, so times are tough; Javed is constantly called upon by his father to help support the family, adding stress.
School is also where we meet the greatest influences in Javed’s life, foremost is Roops (Aaron Phagura) who introduces Javed to “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) who encourages Javed’s writing, even when he doesn’t believe in himself and Eliza (Nell Williams) who falls for Javed.
Just as quickly as Javed’s inspiration is formed, it is just as quickly taken away, reminding us that life is really about responsibility. The music, for which Springsteen allowed 12 of his songs to be used, really is the driving force behind the life-affirming themes that support Javed’s journey.
I think I’ve mentioned it in the past, but as I’ve started analyzing the bits and pieces that go into making a film, music has become a more prominent feature I look for. I should qualify this by saying that I’m a huge fan of musical scores, but pop songs, by way of example, have always eluded me, partially because the lyrics always got lost in the background for me.
Blinded by the Light is as much a beacon to me. It might be because I share many of the similarities to Manzoor’s story, but it reminds us that music can transcend politics, economics and life – it has the power inspire, to bring about change and to remind us that life is not simply the sum of our own parts.
Blinded by the Light is rated PG-13 and is in theaters now.