“Pakistanis do not go to parties,” says Javed’s authoritarian father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir). “I thought I was British,” 16-year old Javed (Viveik Kalra) says, UK-born son of Pakistani parents. “You will always be Pakistani,” his angry father says. “You will never be British!” That’s the family setup for this coming-of-age story in which wannabe poet Javed (not a spoiler) finds his voice, inspired by writer/singer Bruce Springsteen’s working-class anthems.
Will you be entertained by this joyful, if sometimes predictable, feel-good flick? Do Javed and girlfriend Eliza get together? Can Javed and his angry, fearful father find a way to bond? For answers, see “Blinded by the Light,” a family story set in small town Luton, England, 1987.
Newcomer Viveik Kalra is outstanding as he expresses — often silently — young Javed’s transformation, hearing Springsteen’s words for the first time. It’s a revelation, as he tells Miss Clay, his sixth-form English teacher. “I’ve been writing poems in my journal since I was 10 years old. They’re not brilliant, but they’re mine.” Kulvinder Ghir and Meera Ganatra are Javed’s immigrant parents, Malik and Noor. “No one in my family is allowed to have an opinion except him,” Javed says of his overbearing father, who works — when he’s not laid off — in a local factory. His mother is a seamstress who toils tirelessly at home. Nikita Mehta is Javed’s quiet sister, Shazia.
Others in the cast include Viveik’s best friends, Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman), for whose band, Viveik writes poems about the Cold War, and Roops (Aaron Phagura), Sikh classmate who gives Viveik two life-changing Springsteen tape cassettes — “Darkness at the Edge of Town” and “Born in the U.S.A.” Nell Williams is Eliza, with whom Viveik hopes to fall in love. He hangs his love poem on the windows of her home. Hayley Atwell is Miss Clay, who submits Viveik’s essay to an international competition.
“Blinded by the Light,” directed by Gurinder Chadha, is based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir, “Greetings from Bury Park,” his teenage obsession with Springsteen. (Manzoor co-wrote the script with director Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges.) The film is a coming-of-age, father/son family drama, and a musical celebration, with sequences typical of Hollywood musicals — citizens of Luton, singing and dancing to one of 19 Springsteen tunes in the film. On the screen, Springsteen’s words circle Javed and appear on the sides of buildings.
Rated PG-13 for themes and language, including ethnic slurs, “Blinded by the Light” runs 117 minutes. It fulfills the full-screen Springsteen quote: “Talk about a dream, try to make it real.”
“Blinded by the Light,”
Javed wants to write,
Springsteen is his choice —
Javed finds his voice.