Movie Review: ‘Blinded By The Light’

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Gurinder Chadha is one filmmaker who always tends to make films that are close to her heart, so it came as no surprise when she announced she would be making a film based on a memoir written by her friend and journalist Safraz Mansoor, about once of their favourite childhood music artists Bruce Springsteen titled, ‘Blinded By The Light’. However, unlike many of her previous films where many British Asians from all ages can relate to, there was a sign of skepticism as to how this crowd could relate to a story of a boy’s love of Springsteen.

It’s the 70s, the recession, employment is at an all-time low, and the National Front were making their voices heard. Amongst all this is Javed (Viveik Kalra) who only has only two dreams; to become a writer, and get as far away from his home town Luton, and the clutches of his strict father (Kulvinder Ghir), as possible. His solution; go to college, get his A levels and go to a university as far out as he could go. Living a very different life to his best friend Matt (Dean Charles Chapman), who seemed to have all the freedom in the world, which was nothing Javed could relate to. He could write well. But didn’t seem to have his own voice. This is until he meets Roops (Aaron Phagura), who gives him his prize possessions – two Bruce Springsteen cassettes. Already riled up at his fate of living in a strict Pakistani household, where he didn’t feel free, Springsteen’s music was electrifying in Javed’s ears. Suddenly he found everything Springsteen said was exactly what he was going through. Here was a boy, trapped in a life he didn’t want, connecting with the songs from an artist listened to by the previous generation. His love for Springsteen became an obsession, where Javed finally seemed to have found what he was looking for. But, was this the voice for Javed, and how would the music of a man from America help the young man reach his ambitions, when his home life feels so suppressed?

It has to be said that when Kalra comes on screen, he is an instant hit. From the word go, the audiences are rooting for him, mainly because he plays a character that so many can see themselves in. His life is a constant battle between trying to live as a normal boy in England, as well as balancing the traditions set by his father who refuses to believe life can be any other way but his way. From his look to his dialogue delivery, Karla performs this role perfectly, where the audience sees a part of themselves in him. It goes without saying Ghir plays the perfect father figure in this film. Instead of portraying a villain, Ghir makes the audiences understand that his character is simply a father trying his best to be there for his family, keep them together and be a good member of society. His performance tugs at the heartstrings, where instead of disliking his character for the way he treats his son, audiences sympathise with a man who only wants the best for his children, so that they don’t end up getting laid off a job like he did – despite being a loyal staff member for 16 year. Rob Brydon is a pleasant surprise on screen, playing the cool dad of his friend Matt, everyone in Javed’s position wished they had. His comic timing and endearing performance has a familiarity and he brings in the laughs and giggles. Phagura also brings an element of fun. Becoming Javed’s only Asian friend, there love of Springsteen bonds them as brothers, giving Javed another escape from the life he loathes. The more Phagura comes on screen, the more joyous the scenes become, and there’s an anticipation of what he’ll do next to make the audiences laugh. It goes without saying a special mention has to go to actress Meera Ganatra, who plays the relentless mother figure. What makes her performance so different to the rest, is that instead of playing just a mother or just a wife, Ganatra manages to mirror the same emotions as Ghir, in terms reviving the role of a wife who wants to support her husband, and a mother who wants to be there for her son. Ganatra exposes all the emotions that this type of character needs, where sympathy, as well as an understanding for her role, is well understood by those taking in her performance. Chapman, Hayley Atwell and Nell Williams are also placed well as supporting roles, who each play vital parts in the development of Karla’s character development, adding pleasant additions to a brilliant cast.

It’s obvious that Chadha had wanted to make this film for a while. Having attained the rights to Springsteen’s music from the man himself, she has been extremely careful about ensuring she does justice to the story and the music. What’s more evident as ever is Chadha’s development as a director. Despite being an adaptation of a book, she has told this story in the most humble way, where, like she always does so well, it’s one for all to watch and become immersed in. Understanding the strengths of her actors, she has makes the most of what they can do and created a film that is somewhat timeless, and could be seen as one of her best works. Chadha’s work in this film shows how much she has grown as a film maker and it reminds audiences why these types of films are so fun to watch. What makes ‘Blinded by the Light’ even more special, is that Chadha has allowed her personality to be more exposed to the wider audience, making them connect to her characters even more.

Overall, this film is a wonderful watch, where the viewer journeys through a wave of emotions, being reminded what it would be like to be in each character’s shoes. One doesn’t need to be a Springsteen fan in order to be reminded of the feeling that music brings, as its Javed’s experience of listening to the songs, rather than the songs themselves that brings the connection. Though there are some parts where many would think to themselves, they would never do that, like dance on the street, or start singing to bullies who would easily beat them in a fight, it’s still fun to watch. It portrays a message for everyone, and especially those who have been through the same dilemmas as the Khan family, that a bit of love and understanding goes a long way.

 

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