With this heartwarming, intergenerational dramedy about a Pakistani/British teen who falls in love with Bruce Springsteen’s music, Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It like Beckham”) delivers one of the last – and best – cinematic gifts of the summer.
Settling in the tiny, working-class town of Luton, Javed Khan’s (Viveik Kalra) family were among the first Pakistanis on the block, inciting anti-immigrant racism from National Front fascists that continues on a daily basis. And when Javed’s stern father (Kulvinder Ghir) loses his job in 1897, things only get worse.
One day, a Sikh pal (Aaron Phagura) gives him cassette tapes of “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Suddenly, listening to Springsteen’s lyrics, Javed realizes he’s not alone in his confusion about identity, romance and yearning to escape. Basically, Javed’s world changes!
Javed yearns to be a writer but no one takes him seriously until, one day, in high school, an English teacher (Hayley Atwell) reads some of his work. That opens yet another door, one that leads him to Asbury Park, New Jersey, to visit the birthplace/home of The Boss.
Curiously, the concept bears several similarities to “Yesterday” (2019) since both are set in England, rely on classic rock songs and introduce British-born Indian actors in the leads. But “Yesterday” was fantasy, while “Blinded” is based on a true story.
Adapted from British/Pakistani journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s 2007 memoir “Greetings from Bury Park,” it’s adapted and directed by Gurinder Chadha who, along with her co-writing husband Paul Mayeda Berges, creates a character-driven, coming-of-age story about confronting family tradition. Sure, it’s over-simplified and cheesy, at times – but the emotional resonance remains.
A devoted Springsteen fan, Ms. Chadha received special permission from The Boss not only to use his songs throughout the film but also to feature “Jungleland” as National Front white supremacists march through Luton.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Blinded by the Light” is a thoroughly enjoyable 8, a jubilant tribute to the way pop songs can ignite our lives.