Sixteen-year-old Javed (Viveik Kalra) lives with his father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), his mother, Noor (Meera Ganatra), and his sister, Shazia (Nikita Mehta), in a small manufacturing town outside London. It is 1987. His parents immigrated from Pakistan more than 16 years ago, but his dominating father is determined to maintain the culture and ways of doing things from their home country; for example, he won't even let Javed go to a party at the house of his best friend (Dean-Charles Chapman) across the street.
When Malik loses his factory job, Noor takes on more sewing jobs she can do at home. Javed is expected to work hard at school so he can pursue a stable career in business. But what he really wants to be is a writer. He is encouraged in this dream by his creative writing teacher (Hayley Atwell), who not only praises his poetry and prose, she enters one essay in a contest. He also connects in class with Eliza (Nell Williams), who has a passion for politics.
Javed's negative feelings about himself stem not only from his father's disapproval but from being bullied by white supremacists in the neighborhood. Then one day this frustrated adolescent's life is turned around when a Sikh school acquaintance, Roops (Aaron Phagura), gives him a tape of songs by the American rocker Bruce Springsteen. "Bruce is a direct line to all that is true in this shitty world," he says.
Javed is inspired by the rock ballads which speak of the great dance of life, the obstacles faced by the working class, the power of transcendence, the need to stand up to xenophobia, and the energies that come from changing both self and the world. He realizes that he, too, was "born to run" and do something outside what is expected of him.
In many of his writings and speeches, poet Robert Bly lamented the fact that young men today lack mentors to initiate them into manhood and nurture their souls. For many, though, inspiration, encouragement, and support can be found in music. Here we witness the healing ways in which Bruce Springsteen impacts the life — and more importantly, the soul — of one teenager and his friends.
This thematically rich film is directed by Gurinder Chanda, who also directed Bend It Like Beckham, another story about a teen inspired by a public figure. It is based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park, an account by real-life Springsteen fan and journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.
Chanda masterfully orchestrates Javed's transformation from bullied boy to self-confident writer through lively renditions of eleven Springsteen hits and a new song, "I'll Stand by You," just being released with this movie. Fans will savor the robust and varied uses of the songs. One stormy night, Javed goes outside and the lyrics of "The Promised Land" are projected on the walls behind him. He goes job hunting with "Badlands" playing through his headphones. He watches a march by skinheads with "Jungleland" ringing in his ears. He plays "Born to Run" over his school's sound system and soon his classmates have joined in a Bollywood-style dance to the invigorating song.
Blinded by the Light is one of the most Spiritually Literate Films of 2019 with its wonderful, wise, and universal human dimensions. We see how what Springsteen calls "the magic, the mystery, and the ministry of rock 'n' roll" keeps Javed's soul alive. Here are some of the messages in the film that will keep your soul alive too.
Dream big and often. Use your imagination. You can be more than you think you are. Listen to your heart's yearnings. ("Talk about a dream / Try to make it real." — "Badlands")
Don't be afraid to explore the wider world. You don't have to stay stuck. Break out of your confining bubble. ("Wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face / Man, I ain't gettin' nowhere / I'm just livin' in a dump like this / There's somethin' happenin' somewhere." — "Dancing in the Dark")
Have and be a good friend. Find people who need to be loved and love them. Share and care in equal measure. ("Everybody needs a place to rest / Everybody wants to have a home / Don't make no difference what nobody says / Ain't nobody like to be alone / Everybody's got a hungry heart." — "Hungry Heart")
TREASURE YOUR IDEALISM
Find a way to spark your idealism. Put into action, it will become an eternal flame. ( "I believe in the love that you gave me / I believe in the hope that can save me / I believe in the faith / And I pray that some day it may raise me / Above these badlands." — "Badlands")
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Turn away from those who walk over your soul. Cultivate your self-esteem. This form of inner wealth will make you feel rich all your days, and no one can ever take it from you. ("Blow away the dreams that tear you apart / Blow away the dreams that break your heart / Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted . . . I believe in the promised land." — "The Promised Land")
Joy animates all deeply spiritual souls. Plug into this divine energy and you'll have what you need to go forth into a new life. "Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness / I'll love you with all the madness in my soul / Oh, someday, girl, I don't know when / We're gonna get to that place / Where we really wanna go and we'll walk in the sun / But 'til then, tramps like us / Baby, we were born to run." — "Born to Run")
KNOW THAT YOU ARE SUPPORTED
Remember that spiritual resources are always available to you — in stories, in community, arising from your actions, confirmed by your faith. Darkness comes and goes, but morning always comes. ("I wish I could tell a story / Chase away all those ghosts / You got inside of you/ A story of heroes who fight on at any cost / Of a kingdom of love / To be won or lost / We'll fight here together / 'til victory is won / Come take my hand 'til morning comes / . . . I'll stand by you always, always, always."
— "I'll Stand by You")