Socialist Worker

You could be dancing in the dark to Blinded By The Light

Latest film from Bend it Like Beckham director relies on cliches but it still provides a strong story that will infuriate the racists, writes Nick Grant

Issue No. 2665

The music of Bruce Springsteen lights up the life of Javed and his friends

The music of Bruce Springsteen lights up the life of Javed and his friends


Javed is a young man of Pakistani heritage living in 1980s Luton.

His dad Malik works on the track at a Vauxhall plant. His mum Noor works to look after the family, and sits at the sewing machine most nights doing piece work.

At sixth form college Javed has nobody to share his writing obsession with—just like at home.

Then his new Sikh mate Roops gets him into Bruce Springsteen and Javed’s life is changed.

The other plus in his life is an English teacher who believes in his talent even if Javed doesn’t see it.

Later on things turn bleak. Vauxhall lays off his dad. Noor has to take on more sewing jobs.

Attacked

His sister Yasmeen wants a wedding, but it is attacked by Nazis. Shazia lifts Javed’s spirits when she drags him to a daytime disco.

Blinded By The Light is being marketed by the Warner corporation as the “feelgood hit of the summer!”

Working class British-Asian film-makers are few and far between, and some rise to the challenge of telling their life stories convincingly in mainstream media.

Director Gurinder Chadha from Southall did this brilliantly with Bhaji On The Beach about a community outing to Blackpool in 1993. And in 2003 Bend It Like Beckham contrasted Punjabi and British parental attitudes.

Javed is based on journalist and co-scriptwriter Sarfraz Mansoor’s experiences growing up.

His biographical Greetings from Bury Park—Race, Religion and Rock’n’Roll is about his teen fixation with Springsteen.

So much about working class life, racism and ambition rings true here, particularly the handling of gender issues. But there are too many plot cliches for Blinded By The Light to really punch home its potential. And the Bollywood-style dance routines are half-hearted.

It doesn’t quite reach the heights it could have.

Springsteen’s lyrics are an overused substitute for Javed’s dialogue. Like music festival-goers today he mouths his idol’s lines in sacred adoration too often. The Nazi violence scene is poorly represented.

Most uncomfortable are the gushing references to the American dream, especially when Javed arrives at US passport control.

This contrasts sharply with Trump’s war on migrants today, and may have been designed to. US audiences seem to be taking it as a two fingered salute to that bigot.

It probably also attests to the US public recovering a degree of class consciousness, and learning that life in Britain is about more than the Cotswolds, tea and Brexit.

However, and in spite of its lapses, this is undoubtedly the kind of anti-racist film that will leave the racists gnashing their teeth fuming. Gurinder and Sarfraz deserve every credit for that.

Blinded by the Light is on general release from 9 August

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