Another music story that hits the right chords.
Blinded by the Light
Director: Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham)
Screenplay: Chada, Paul Mayeda Berges (Beckham,What’s Cooking0 Sarfraz Manzoor, inspired by Bruce Springsteen
Cast: Viviek Karla, Kulvinder Ghir
Runtime: 1 hr 57 min
By: John DeSando
“Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man/And I believe in the promised land.” Bruce Springsteen
The recent memorable music films such as Yesterday, Wild Rose, Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star is Born left me exhilarated but pessimistic that there could be no more competitors. Enter Blinded by the Light, adapted from Safraz Manzoor’s memoir, Greetings from Bury Park, to reinforce the euphoria I continue to have about music of greats from the past set in dramatic context or original songs set to stirring stories.
Pakistani Javed (Viviek Karla) lives in small town Luton, in Thatcher’s austere 1987 (the anti-immigrant National Front was prominent if you need contemporary context), a nowhere place in England miles from London that is not friendly to Pakis. He is a fledgling writer who luckily discovers Bruce Springsteen, already an irrelevant rocker for Brit teens, and his beautiful unironic music of isolation and rebellion. No one in the audience could possibly not have an affinity for music that speaks of release from boredom and suppression.
Javed, listening to tapes like Darkness at the Edge of Town and Born in the USA, identifies with having a hungry heart and being born to run. However, Paki tradition of slavish fealty to his father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), keeps him from leaving to follow his dream. The film spends way too much with the conflict between controlling father and submissive son. Consequently, the Springsteen songs and the Bollywood dancing and acting out they inspire (set pieces with Born to Run, the Promised Land, and Thunder Road are outstanding) feel shortened so we can endure the constant bickering with strong-willed, directive dad.
The moments when Javed can cut loose with Bruce are among the best of the two-year buffet we have had of this sub-genre. Because the story is based on an actual experience, we can call it a biopic and rank it right alongside Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody. While Blinded is much softer than those two, Springsteen’s music has such a real relationship with the world that the film connects with our everyday experience as no fantasy-filled musical story can do.
Blinded by the Light is as much about the powerful cultural impact of pop music as it is about the place of Springsteen in the collective imagination. And, it is simply a stirring story with some exceptionally-entertaining music!
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com