British Indian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha’s new film set in 1980s England against the backdrop of popular American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen’s songs hit cinemas across the UK on Friday.
Blinded By The Light, which first screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and bagged a mega worldwide distribution deal, will release in India on Wednesday following a successful opening in the UK and US.
The film is a coming of age story based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park by British Pakistani author Sarfraz Manzoor and set in his hometown of Luton, near London.
“Sarfraz was a journalist but had not written for the screen, he really wanted to have a go so I gave him several one on one tutorials in my house and the screenplay process began,” recalls Chadha, the award-winning director behind Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice.
“In the book I found that he often stayed away from getting to the real nubs of disagreement with his father or with members of his community, which was totally understandable. So, my job was always to push him and to try and get closer to the truth because drama is conflict,” she says.
The result was Blinded By The Light, which tells the story of a British Pakistani teenager named Javed who learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the words and music of Springsteen.
The plot seeks to portray the South Asian immigrant experience in Britain during the era of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the impact of unemployment as a result of severe economic austerity of the period.
“Bruce’s lyrics are very much part of our screenplay and we use his songs in a great narrative way. The lyrics drive the narrative somewhat. The film is not a musical but a film with music, rooted in reality where you hear the cast singing along to songs but not as professional singers – more like their characters would,” explains Chadha.
And Springsteen himself joined the team on the red carpet in his hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, earlier this week for its US premiere, having given his blessing to the project a few years ago.
The film’s producer Jane Barclay says, “The idea of the ‘hybrid musical’ evolved over time, though the music was always key, as was the use of Bruce’s lyrics to drive the narrative. The songs were worked into the script very cleverly.
“Gurinder is skilled at bringing just the right emotion and truth to a scene so was really able to work the lyrics in with just the right tone and narrative beats.”
The India release next week will complete the comedy-drama’s international journey, named Blinded By The Light after one of Springsteen’s popular tracks.