Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Written by: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, Sarfaz Manzoor
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura
The power of music knows no bounds. When a musician sets out to make a song, it could be derived from personal experience with no idea how it will land with someone thousands of miles away. This beautiful and jovial experience shows the power of music and how it can inspire anyone to jump for joy.
Living and hating life in Luton, England, Javed Khan (Viveik Karla) loves rock music, much to the dismay of his immigrant parents. At school, he interacts with the only other South Asian student, who introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Javed immediately connects with the words and passion behind each song and how it relates so well to his life. Taking the words of Bruce, Javed starts to advocate for himself and his dreams.
As someone, who has ever barely listened to a Springstein track, I was so fascinated with how they would bring this story to the silver screen. It’s based on the true story of a Pakistani man, who fell in love with Springsteen’s music and Blinded By the Light beautifully brings those feelings together. It shows the power of music because Springstein did not live the life of Javed, who encounters racism every day but the words connected with the young adult. They didn’t share the same struggles but the same words helped them each cope with their issues and eventually overcome them. It’s beautifully inspiring and helped along by such an enthusiastic and loving performance by its lead.
Viveik Kalra is the heart and soul of this film and the whole production would not succeed without his awe-inspiring performance. He embodies the spirit of Javed, who needs to fight off the temptation of conforming to follow his own pursuits. Kalra exudes pure joy that becomes infectious to all of the other characters in the film and the audience. He’s unintentionally funny with his awkwardness while still having some confidence when the words of Springstein bang against his eardrum. This hopefully serves as a breakout role for him because he belongs in more films, as sometimes we need that type of positivity in our lives.
I could not help but get vibes of one of my favorite films, Sing Street, while watching this film because it harbors some of the same rebellious and artistic spirits. It certainly helps that it has the same synthesizer-packed music continuously humming in the background. All the choices by director Gurinder Chadha establish the world she’s transported the audience to. She first made a big splash in Bend It Like Beckham and with the rest of her filmography, she continues to display her prowess with capturing the angst and wonderment of our adolescent years. Just how teenagers have something they want to say, but may be a bit too inexperienced to fully articulate it. She captures their dreams to change the world and become someone that contributed to society in some way. It has so much fun humor throughout and brings the words of Springstein out of the cassette player. At times when Javed listens and jams to music by “The Boss,” the lyrics pop out and dance along with the young protagonist. Either wrapping him in the meaning of it or helping him glide. It adds that touch of magic that further displays the connection Javed has to the music.
While there are plenty of laughs in the film, it does cover the harsh reality of being an immigrant and how it impacts a family unit. Javed’s parents came from Pakistan for a better life for their family and there are expectations placed upon Javed’s shoulders that he deems to be unfair. Javed wants to pursue poetry and earning his money through the arts, while his father believes it to be all nonsense and that his son should get a practical job to help the family. It shows the cultural and generational clash between the two characters. At one point in the story, Javed has the opportunity to take on an unpaid internship. His father sees that to be absurd, as no compensation will be earned but Javed sees it as an opportunity. Javed’s family wants him to listen to music from their culture and not get too hung up on people not like him but that’s not the life he wants to live. As the son of immigrants, that really hit home for me and the internal struggles Javed faces throughout the story.
Not much different from the contemporary climate, Javed and his family have to fight racism and the assumption that they are criminals. It serves as another obstacle Javed needs to overcome simply to live the normal life of a teenager with dreams and wanting to get a significant other. This jovial and uplifting story is such a welcome addition to this world and can serve as an injection of positivity whenever someone feels down. Javed has an incredible story and I encourage anyone reading this to look it up and see the impact music can have from the words written by a guy in Boston to the ears of a Pakistani boy.