Last weekend, my wife and I saw Gurinder Chaddha's "Blinded by the Light", a film based on the true story of British Pakistani journalist Sarfraz Manzoor growing up Luton in 1980s when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, ruled the United Kingdom. Our evening started with a spicy and aromatic dinner at Banana Leaf, a popular Malaysian Restaurant in Silicon Valley, followed by our visit to AMC Mercado where we watched the movie.
Sarfaraz Manzoor (L) with Bruce Springsteen
Blinded by the Light draws its title from a popular Bruce Springsteen song of the same name. It is based on British Pakistani journalist Sarfaraz Manzoor's 2007 memoir "Greetings from Bury Park". Manzoor's memoir is about the power of Bruce Springsteen's music influencing him as a Pakistani teen growing up in Britain in 1980s.
Springsteen's music "speaks" to Javed, the teenage character's name for real-life Sarfraz Manzoor who is played by Viveik Kalra. With plant closings and de-industrialization that cost Javed's father his job at a local auto plant and forced his mother work long hours as a seamstress, the teenager experienced what Springsteen's poetry is about. Springsteen's father was often unemployed and his mother was the main breadwinner for the family. Lyrics of his songs like "Johnny 99" and "The Factory" made Springsteen a working class hero.
The person who introduced Javed to Springsteen's music was his Sikh classmate Roops, the only other Asian in high class which consisted almost entirely of white boys and girls. The shared love of Springsteen's music brought the two boys close. Javed's female classmate Eliza also becomes close to him and the two start to date.
Greetings from Bury Park, the book Blinded by the Light is based on, is the story of young Sarfaraz Manzoor's experience of living in a white working class neighborhood and being subjected to bigotry and racism by neighbors and classmates. But it is also a story of kindness and support extended to him by some of the white teachers and neighbors. In particular, his English schoolteacher encouraged him to pursue his passion for writing. She recommended him to the local newspaper for an internship where he was asked to cover the unfolding story of attempts by some in Luton to shut down the only mosque in town. He even got paid for the mosque story he wrote for the newspaper. Later, his teacher entered one of his essays in a competition in which he won a trip to Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) in New Jersey in the United States. The trip gave him an opportunity to visit Asbury Park referred to in Bruce Springsteen's debut album "Greetings From Asbury Park".
Gurinder Chaddha who previously brought us "Bend It Like Beckham" has lived up to her reputation as a great filmmaker with "Blinded by the Light". The soundtrack of her latest film is dominated by Springsteen's popular hits. It's a well-made film. The only complaint I have is that Chadhha has not cast any Pakistani actors in this film. I'm sure she could have found several British Pakistani actors to cast from the available talent pool in the British Pakistani community.