Originally written By Hannah Shaw-Williams for Screen Rant
Gurinder Chadha's latest coming-of-age movie, Blinded by the Light, is about a British Pakistani teenager called Javed who falls in love with the music of Bruce Springsteen - and it's based on a true story! The real Javed is journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, and Blinded by the Light is based on his book Greetings From Bury Park (a spin on Springsteen's album title Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.), which was published in 2007 and recounts Manzoor's formative years and his discovery of Springsteen's music.
Blinded by the Light was also made with the blessing of Springsteen himself, who allowed 17 of his songs to be used in the movie - including the previously unreleased track "I'll Stand By You," which was originally recorded for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but didn't end up being used in that movie. Blinded by the Light ends by showing a photo of Manzoor with Springsteen, as well as a photo of the real Roops (Javed's Sikh friend, who introduces him to Springsteen's music), and a photo of Manzoor's real parents.
Though the names may have been changed, much of what takes place in Blinded by the Light is close to the true story. Speaking in an interview with Screen Rant, Manzoor explained that Javed is actually the name his mother originally gave him before his father decided to call him Sarfraz instead. He also noted a few changes in the movie for dramatic effect. For example, in Blinded by the Light Javed first listens to Springsteen's music in the middle of a hurricane - which did actually happen in real life, but not until about a month after Manzoor first discovered Springsteen. Also, Blinded by the Light features a scene in which Javed's dad rips up tickets that Javed had bought for a Springsteen concert in London; in reality, Manzoor did actually get to go to the concert - the first of more than 150 live performances that he would go on to attend over the next 30 years.
One character in the movie who is wholly fictional is Javed's girlfriend, Eliza, a vocal political activist who has a frosty relationship with her conservative parents. Director Gurinder Chadha, who co-wrote the screenplay with Manzoor and Paul Mayeda Berges, suggested that Javed should have a girlfriend in order to round out the romantic aspect of the coming-of-age movie. As Manzoor told us, having a girlfriend wasn't really a possibility when he was a teenager:
"In real life, I was literally not allowed to leave the house until I went to university at 18 – not just in the evenings; I never, ever went out. So, the idea of having a girlfriend? I would have been slaughtered. No way. But Gurinder was like, 'C’mon, we’ve got to give this guy a girl. We’ve got to cheer him up a little bit.' So, he’s got a girlfriend, which I didn’t have."
Like Javed, Manzoor did end up going to Manchester University, though he studied Economics and Politics rather than creative writing. His professional career has ranged from work as a TV news reporter to writing books, articles, documentaries and radio programs. Greetings From Bury Park and Blinded by the Light aren't the only works where Manzoor has explored his early life and relationship with Springsteen's music. He also made a documentary called Luton Actually that explored the journey his family made from Pakistan to Britain when Manzoor was just two years old, and a radio documentary called From Luton Streets to Jersey Shores, in which he compares his own home town to Springsteen's.