Born in the [UK]

“Blinded by the Light” proves connections can be made in the most unlikely places.



Bruce Springsteen and his band “The Seeger Sessions Band” perform October 24, 2006 at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. “Blinded by the Light” details a fan’s connection to the singer’s music.

In 1987 England, the hair was big, the colors were neon and the music was still riding its golden days with artists like Prince, Wham! and The Cure. As music evolved rapidly, so did the general population’s tastes and choices of idols. “Blinded by the Light” tells the against-all-odds story of a Pakistani teenager living in Luton, England who found Bruce Springsteen, an artist who “know[s] nothing about [his] world,” to attach to, finding representation in his lyrical masterpieces revered by society from then to modern day. Despite massive cultural differences, the protagonist Javed (Viveik Kalra) discovers that he can break out of the mold his family’s expectations and follow his heart, all without forgetting his roots. The film is one of internal discovery and understanding.

The film,  inspired by the real story of its writer Sarfraz Manzoor, based upon his memoir, “Greetings from Bury Park” takes from his own experience in Manzoor’s early adulthood and infused it with the charm that stems from a typical movie musical. Kalra brings a raw and heartwarming performance and the audience watches him mature from his quiet, repressed manner beginning of the film into what can only be called a Javed 2.0, with his original clean cut, traditional school outfits turning into pieces of denim and flannel, rebelling against the societal norms of his life to appear like his idol and others of the generation.  Kalra’s performance allows the audience feel each moment of Javed’s agony, hope and turmoil. In a moment of growth at the end of the film, he gives an emotional speech after winning a writing award and tearfully says no matter how different he is to his family, he will always be proud of where he came from and that you have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.

The film manages to somehow turn a realistic story into one of fantasy as Javed is fully emerged into Springsteen’s music; the scene, featured in the trailer, shows him standing in the pouring rain listens to “Dancing In The Dark” for the first time. Like something from a music video, the lyrics come to life around Javed, flying and dancing around him, showing the physical manifestation of Springsteen’s impact upon him. 

Javed Khan, a young Pakistani man living in England, feels like he doesn’t belong in his traditional patriarchal family where he is expected to be obedient and disciplined while following in the footsteps of his father. His goals for the future are to kiss a girl, become a writer and get out of Luton, the tiny town he lives in. His parents Noor Khan (Meera Ganatra) and Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) are Pakistani immigrants faced with unemployment hardships, desperately trying to support their large family while also enduring the typical racism of the time.

The rise of Pakistani immigrants at the time period to London brought with it facists groups, such as the National Front (NF), who organized marches and hate crimes against South Asian citizens of London. While attending college, Javed meets a fellow Pakistani classmate, charismatic Roops (Aaron Phagura), who introduces him to Springsteen’s music. He passionately claims Springsteen is the “boss of us all” and changes Javed’s life forever, being comforted with Springsteen’s music as his words mirrored Javed’s cultural struggle and inner turmoil. With the support of Roops, his activist girlfriend Eliza (Nell Williams), his persistent English teacher Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) and Springsteen’s discography, Javed finally takes ownership of his life and experiences vital coming of age moments in a culture and society that has deemed him unworthy because of his heritage. Along the way, Springsteen’s music becomes his anthem, inspiring him to achieve all that he believes he is capable of and to live his life to the fullest.

The film’s structure is told with a sincerity that only comes with a deep passion for the topic. Both the writer, Manzoor, and the director, Gurinder Chadha, are both passionate South Asian Springsteen fans who were committed to not only bringing visibility to their hero, but to their culture. Before the movie began in the theater, a preview reel of the movie showed both the director and the writer of the original source material as they talked about the inspiration and process of bringing this story to life, explaining why this storyline meant so much to them to create. “Blinded by the Light” radiates charm in a film where music is not only an escape but like Javed, uses it as a way to cope with the harsh reality of the world.