Do you remember the first time you heard your favorite musician and the emotions that swirled through your body as you listened to song after song? Have you ever discovered an artist whose lyrics seem to be speaking directly to you? We’ve all encountered the power of music in one way or another, and you’ll have the opportunity to discover it all over again in cinematic fashion tonight when Warner Bros. releases New Line Cinema’s inspirational drama Blinded by the Light.
As you may have inferred from the title, the music of Bruce Springsteen is at the heart of this movie. Not only is Blinded by the Light set to Springsteen’s music, but the movie is inspired by the real-life story of author Sarfraz Manzoor, whose memoir, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, chronicles his shift in perspective after encountering Springsteen’s life-altering musical message.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) in Blinded by the Light (2019)
Set in 1987 England, Blinded by the Light follows Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in Luton, who escapes the racial and economic turmoil of the times through writing. He still, however, lives in a shell of fear, self-doubt, and family pressure until his classmate, Roops (Aaron Phagura), introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen. The powerful lyrics lift Javed out of the doldrums and into a whole new stratosphere where anything is possible if he only has the courage to find his unique voice, express himself, and follow his dreams wholeheartedly. As Javed delves further into the Springsteen discography, the power of music shines through in three distinct ways: power to provide an escape from life’s troubles, power to instill courage, and power to inspire.
Javed lives in Luton, a manufacturing town about 35 miles north of London, during a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. One of his three main goals is to “get out of this dump.” Sarfraz Manzoor says, “There was this genuine culture where people felt there was no future and no hope if you were from a certain class or background.” Javed’s family becomes one of the many forced to make sacrifices when his father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), gets laid off from work. With Malik under increasing pressure to provide for the family and earn a good living, Javed’s main goal of becoming a writer clashes with his father’s traditional Pakistani values. “I want to be a writer,” Javed says, “but my family is stuck in another century.”
(left to right) Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) and Javed (Viveik Kalra) in Blinded by the Light (2019)
In addition to his pressures from home, Javed faces harassment from some of the locals due to his Pakistani heritage. Feeling the walls of cultural expectations and economic struggles closing in, Javed turns to poetry as an outlet for his emotions until Roops introduces him to Bruce Springsteen. Writer/director/producer Gurinder Chadha says, “…what I loved about Springsteen is that his songs are like little movies, very cinematic. They are stories on quite a grand scale—ordinary people against big backdrops.” Javed’s story is exactly that—an ordinary person against a big backdrop.
(left to right) Javed (Viveik Kalra) and Roops (Aaron Phagura) in Blinded by the Light (2019)
Javed pops a Springsteen tape into his Walkman® for the first time, slips on his headphones, plays “Dancing in the Dark,” and escapes into a world of hope where he is free to dream. Just when it seems he may never be understood, he suddenly finds someone who shares his deepest emotions and desires. “It’s like Bruce knows everything I’ve ever felt,” Javed says, “everything I’ve ever wanted.” From that moment on, whenever Javed puts on those headphones, the rest of the world slips away, leaving only the desires in his heart and vision for the future in his mind.
Although Javed wishes to become a professional writer, he’s a little hesitant to share his personal work with others, especially his writing teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell). After fully absorbing Springsteen’s lyrics, Javed gains the courage he needs to finally share his work with Ms. Clay, whose opinion he greatly respects. Javed yanks the loose notebook pages of hand-written poems off his bedroom wall and delivers the disheveled stack to his teacher, anxiously awaiting her reaction. “I also wrote poems, because I didn’t have the chance to discuss any of the things I was feeling with my family,” says Manzoor. “We didn’t have that kind of relationship. All of Javed’s poems pinned to the wall are actually my real poems.” This marks an important turning point in Javed’s journey to find his own, distinct voice through writing, a turning point that may have never happened if it were not for the transformative power of music.
(left to right) Javed (Viveik Kalra) and Eliza (Nell Williams) in Blinded by the Light (2019)
Javed also finds courage through music in his personal relationships, allowing him to fulfill another goal: kiss a girl. He confesses his love for classmate Eliza (Nell Williams) through the lyrics of a Springsteen song that he sings aloud to her in public. Javed turns to Springsteen’s lyrics again to find courage when he and Roops are kicked out of their booth for being Pakistani. First, they shrink away and find another booth, but then, they return to sing aloud a few lines of Springsteen’s lyrics in protest.
Now with the ability to escape his present troubles in order to adequately express himself on the page and the courage to open the door when opportunity knocks, Javed is beginning to see his transformation take place. However, like any of us who have lofty dreams, Javed is reminded again and again of the hurdles between himself and the future he hopes to obtain. Chadha says, “This is about wanting to have a dream and thinking that the dream is not going to be possible…because of who you are, what your background is, and what your parents might be thinking.”
(left to right) Eliza (Nell Williams), Javed (Viveik Kalra), and Roops (Aaron Phagura) in Blinded by the Light (2019)
There will always be times when we feel like giving up. Javed turns to music during these times for the inspiration he needs to take another step, write another page, and make room for positive thoughts. Revisiting the first time Javed listens to Springsteen, Chadha notes, “The words suddenly inject his life with meaning. Then he plays another track, ‘Promised Land,’ and it tells him to forget about what it is that holds him back—instead, think about what can take him forward.” The lyrics inspire Javed like nothing else in his life can, paving the way for the future that is within his grasp.
Experience the power of music in a heartwarming tale of courage, love, hope, and family when Blinded by the Light comes to Regal on August 16.