One of my favorite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was co-writer and director Gurinder Chadha’s (Bend It Like Beckham) Blinded by the Light. The film follows a British Pakistani teenager in 1987 (played brilliantly by Viveik Kalra) during the austere days of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain that starts to understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen. The film is based on the memoir of British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.
Here’s a bit from Adam Chitwood’s review:
“Blinded by the Light is an irresistible movie. You may be initially dubious about its premise—a coming-of-age 80s-set story about a young British Pakistani boy who discovers his identity by listening to Bruce Springsteen—but you will inevitably succumb to its charms. You may think the film’s sentimentality is too much, but you’ll be in tears by the end. It’s a rapturously joyous, heartfelt, and genuinely insightful film not just about The Boss, but about the personal nature and power of music. About how art in general can shape and affect one’s life in substantial ways—especially during the advent of adolescence. Admittedly it’s currently January and we have a lot of road ahead of us, but I have no doubt that by the time 2019 is done, Blinded by the Light will stand as one of the year’s best films.”
Trust me, Blinded by the Light is one of those special films that will make you laugh and cry and you’ll love every second of it.
Shortly after seeing the film I sat down with Gurinder Chadha, Sarfraz Manzoor and Viveik Kalra at the Collider studio at the Kia Supper Suite in Park City. They talked about getting a standing ovation at Sundance and then selling the film’s worldwide rights to New Line, how the film happened, how they got Bruce Springsteen’s music, the scene where Kalra sings “Thunder Road” and figuring out how to sing with meaning, what it was like for Manzoor to watch the casting process for characters based on himself and his father, what they learned from early screenings that impacted the finished film, Springsteen’s opinion on the film, the spontaneous applause throughout the Sundance screening and what audiences are responding to in the film, and so much more.
I’d also like to take a moment to give special thanks to our Collider Studio partner, the all new 2020 Kia Telluride, which was transporting filmmakers to our studio in celebration of the debut of the all new model, Kia’s first eight-passenger SUV that is several inches longer and wider than the brand’s award-winning Sorento.
Libations flowing at the Collider studio and parties were provided by LIFEWTR, Tequila Comisario, Sensi Tuscany Wines, Blue Moon Belgian White and Dragonfly Coffee Roasters. Food during the evening parties was provided by Greene St. Kitchen of Palms Casino Resort helmed by Chef Du Cuisine Lanny Chin. Brand partners also active during the day-part include mou, a luxury footwear and accessories line, and The Wild Immersion endorsed by Jane Goodall who was on-site with the world’s first ‘virtual reserve’.
Check out what they had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about.
- Getting a standing ovation at Sundance and then selling the film’s worldwide rights to New Line.
- How the story of Blinded By the Light came about.
- The film’s production design and getting Sarfraz Manzoor’s actual poems into the film.
- Having to clean up Bruce Springsteen’s archive footage because he mumbles.
- The one clip you have to watch to understand why they made this film about Bruce Springsteen’s music.
- What the auction process and first conversations were like for Viveik Kalra.
- The scene where Kalra sings “Thunder Road” and figuring out how to sing with meaning.
- What it was like for Manzoor to watch the casting process for characters based on himself and his father.
- How the film got permission to use the music from Bruce Springsteen himself.
- What it was like waiting for Bruce Springsteen’s opinion on the film, and what his immediate reaction was.
- What they learned from early screenings that impacted the finished film.
- Kalha’s reaction to reading the script for Blinded by the Light, his feature-film debut.
- The spontaneous applause throughout the Sundance screening and what audiences are responding to in the film.
Here’s the official synopsis via Sundance:
1987, Margaret Thatcher’s England. Javed, a 16-year-old British Pakistani boy, lives in the town of Luton. His father’s recent job termination and the neighborhood skinheads are a daily reminder of the difficult times he’s living in. What young Javed really wants is to be a writer—something his father doesn’t approve of or understand—and when a new friend loans him a few Bruce Springsteen cassettes, Javed is changed forever. The Boss’s working-class anthems and affirming lyrics seem to speak directly to Javed, emboldening him to find his own voice as a writer, stand up to the racism around him, and challenge his father’s rigid ideals.
Based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park by journalist/writer Sarfraz Manzoor, Blinded by the Light is a comedic, joyous musical companion piece to writer/director Gurinder Chadha’s 2002 hit film, Bend It Like Beckham. Heartwarming and inspiring, Javed’s story reminds us of the transformative, universal power of music to transcend race, class, and nationality and bind us all on a human level.