Blinded by the Light: a Feelgood Antidote to the Grim State of the World
I’ve been raised on Bruce Springsteen. The first notes and words of any given Springsteen song instantly brings back images of my dad listening to one of the albums in the car, saying “seriously, he is the BOSS!”
Whether you’ve listened to Springsteen your whole life, or classify him as the epitome of dad rock (a sentiment the film shows was already present in the 80’s), there is no telling that Gurinder Chadha’s new film has the incredible ability to resonate with each of us. When the main character, Javed Khan, presses ‘play’ on his walkman and first hears Springsteen’s songs, his epiphany rings familiar. Through the bonds he draws between the music and his life, Chadha draws a picture of 1987 England, of the particular hardships faced by the Asian community, in the midst of a Thatcher-shaped recession and rising racial tensions.
In a nutshell, Blinded By The Light tells the story of Javed, a 16 year-old British teenager, of the struggles of dual identity (here, Pakistani and British), of his desire to escape his hometown of Luton and become a writer. His discovery, through a friend, of Bruce Springsteen’s music gives him the will to express his emotions.
Like her earlier movie, Bend It Like Beckham did in 2002, Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded By The Light succeeds at combining both a moving tale of reaching for dreams, and the depiction of rising anti-Asian sentiment in England. Without becoming a cliché of itself, the film manages to depict in a raw, sincere way the structure of a traditional Pakistani family in 1980’s Britain, and the childrens’ ways of grappling with their dual identity. Beyond the universal message of hope conveyed by Springsteen’s music, Blinded By The Light perfectly achieves the (regretfully) still groundbreaking task of Asian British representation on the big screen. Viveik Kalra, who portrays the main character, does so with refreshing candor and authenticity.
While Bruce Springsteen is a white American singer, and Javed is a Pakistani British teenager, Gurinder Chadha’s choice of Springsteen as the musical revelation for Javed seems relevant.
Since his first album in 1973, Springsteen has been the voice of a whole part of working-class people in the United States and across continents, singing of his own upbringing in the blue-collar community, of wanting more from a life that doesn’t give much to begin with. In that sense, it seems logical that Bruce’s words would ignite an inner revolution for Javed, whose social and political background consists of economic crises, unemployment and the rise of the National Front. In the context of Brexit and rising anti-immigration sentiment on a global scale, Blinded By The Light is a good antidote to the otherwise rather grim state of the world.
Beyond being a lovely, feel-good coming of age story, the film is a brilliantly executed narration of Britain in the 80’s. A beautiful ode to Springsteen’s cultural significance, Blinded By The Light achieved the task of actually making me listen to Springsteen’s lyrics and their cultural relevance, rather than simply seeing the songs as classic ‘my dad’ rock music.