Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light is a coming of age movie set to the music of “The Boss”. The story follows Javed (Viveik Kara), a Pakistani teenager living in the small bleak town of Luton in 1987. Things aren’t going well for him. His father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has been laid off from his factory job, his mother Noor (Meer Ganatra) works all hours to scrape up a little money to support the family, and members of a hate group attempt to force minorities, like Javed’s family, out of town. He finds escape through writing poetry, something his strict father disapproves of. Malik would rather have a son with practical aspirations.
Things take a turn for the better when Javed meets fellow classmate, Roops (Aaron Phagura), who introduces him to Bruce Springsteen’s music. The moment he pops in the cassette tape, his world suddenly opens up. He instantly relates to the lyrics. Springsteen sings about getting out of a dead-end town and following your dreams. His words embolden Javed to work on his poetry, stand up to his father, and even go after the girl (Nell Williams) he has a crush on. So much of the film rests on Kara’s shoulders and he doesn’t falter. He shows Javed’s growth as he comes into his own. It’s a fantastic performance, especially considering this is his first starring role.
What I enjoyed most about this film was the powerful effect that music had on Javed’s life. He’s inspired to reach further because his hero’s songs urge him to do so. But in the end, he discovers that he was always talented and capable. Springsteen’s words didn’t give him a voice, they merely helped him to find it. Amongst the teenage angst and discovery, Chadha expertly weaves in the theme of the importance of family. Ultimately, Javed is able to build a bridge between his evolved identity and his loved ones. It’s a heartwarming story that might have made me tear up a bit…maybe more than a bit.
I always thought “Dancing in the Dark” was a simple pop song that Courtney Cox danced to on MTV. Turns out there’s more to it. Having the lyrics projected on screen in Blinded gave me a better appreciation for Springsteen’s writing. I’ll definitely be buying a record or two of his.