Do you like Bruce Springsteen? Javed (Viveik Kalra) does. If you like Springsteen too perhaps you’ll find it easier than I did to connect with Javed while watching Blinded by the Light. If you don’t like Bruce Springsteen or are neither here nor there about The Boss, Javed and you will almost certainly encounter problems in relating.
Javed is a bit like those people you meet at two in the morning at a party. It’s always just around the time that you’re thinking about either making moves home or sticking around for the long haul. Those people start telling you about something that he or she is interested in and then never stops talking about it. They also never effectively convince you why whatever they are talking about is so fascinating or wonderful but that doesn’t matter because they’re so blindly into whatever it is that they couldn’t conceive a situation in which that particular subject matter would not be interesting. Javed would be one of those people.
Great movies can make you interested in something you’re usually not interested in. Or they can employ something you’re not interested in to convey something universal about passion. Blinded by the Light is directed by Gurinder Chadha, who established a presence on the international filmmaking scene with Bend it Like Beckham back in 2002.
I don’t care about soccer but Bend it Like Beckham exploited the sport to establish a ubiquitous themes such as feeling like we don’t belong and the excitement for a pursuit. Soccer might have been anything. The film might have been called Paint it Like Picasso or Belt it Out Like Beyoncé and the general gist of what Chadha was trying to convey would have remained intact.
The film follows a familiar narrative arch, in which we have been conditioned to view protagonists as figures of inspiration and vision. He is a British high school student of Pakistani descent growing up in the town of Luton, England, in 1987. Luton doesn’t provide the variety of keenness for life that Javed strives for. It is also marked by racially motivated violence and Javed is the subject of much of it.
The rest of the movie plays a little something like this – Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen one afternoon and it caters for all of his joy and provides the answers to every tricky situation. In one scene, a group of racist bullies kick Javed and his friend out of their spot at a local diner. Javed responds by enthusiastically reciting some Springsteen lyrics. The bullies appear flustered, Javed is triumphant. Surely even Bruce Springsteen fans will understand that something like this would never happen.
These sort of issues wouldn’t actually be a problem if Chadha had effectively transported some of Javed’s passion into her audience. Then we might understand the transcendental power of Springsteen’s work. I might be able to buy those bullies being put in their place by a school kid simply thanks to a passionate rendition of some song lyrics. But for all the times we are told just how amazing Bruce Springsteen is we are never convinced to join in with Javed in his ardor.