The movie musical seems to be thriving at the moment, and in these tumultuous political times, who is really going to complain about experiencing the escapism and joy that only a film of this genre can bring?
Director Gurinder Chadha describes her latest film as more of a “quasi-musical”, and indeed Blinded By The Light is able to toe that line with an admirable finesse. There are moments of musical fantasy not dissimilar to those seen in Rocketman, but yet the film is as much about music as it is told with music.
Inspired by an incredible true story, and based on the memoir ‘Greetings From Bury Park’ by Sarfraz Manzoor, the film tells the story of Javed Khan (Vivek Kalra), a Pakistani teenager who dreams of a life outside Luton, far away from his very traditional family and particularly his slightly overbearing Father (Kulvinder Ghir) who believes Javed can be anything he wants to be. As long as one of those things is a lawyer, an accountant or an estate agent! When his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) introduces him to The Boss aka Bruce Springsteen, Javed’s world is turned upside down and through the lyrics of the legendary musician, he finds his voice.
Gurinder Chadha has proved time and time again that she has a certain deftness for feel-good and joy-filled films, and Blinded By The Light is certainly one that can sit comfortably alongside these. This is the sort of film that will have you grinning from ear to ear throughout and fighting back tears by the end. Whilst the tone is light, it also doesn’t completely shy away from the grim realities of its late 1980s setting either, and it is this which helps keep the story grounded despite some of its fantastical and dreamlike sequences. It is also the thing which gives it added potency for our current political climate, but it never feels overbearing in its messaging.
What the film manages to perfectly convey is the notion of music as a universal language. It is the thing that connects a Pakistani teen with The Boss, and it is the exploration of this notion that also gives the film its universal appeal. Whether a fan of Bruce or not, everyone at some point in their lives has experienced that “lightning bolt” moment when they felt that a song was speaking directly to them and their experiences; something which the film presents wonderfully and almost literally in one memorable stormy sequence.
As well as the music, family is at the centre of this story and there is a particularly touching father and son relationship between Javed and his father, Malik. They don’t always agree and they have very different and conflicting ideas about what constitutes success, and this arc is absolutely perfectly pitched throughout the film. Kulvinder Ghir is absolutely magnificent as the Khan family’s patriarch. A proud and traditional man who at the end of it all just wants the very best for his family, and to be the person that they can all look up to. In his struggle to find employment and the journey he goes on in his relationship with Javed, the film has its emotional core and it is beautifully played. The fact that the film is based on a true story as well gives it even more gravitas, and with Sarfraz also penning the script for the film, there is a real sense of truth and honesty to the film; qualities which The Boss himself also embodies.
Blinded By The Light is perfectly poised to be the runaway feel-good hit of the summer, and it is almost impossible not to be charmed by it. A sublime slice of pure escapism, this film is the toe-tapping embodiment of joy that we all need right now.
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra