Bollywood Meets Bruce Springsteen In 'Blinded By The Light'

23 hours ago
Originally published on August 16, 2019 6:25 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The new film "Blinded By The Light" takes place in Margaret Thatcher's Britain. It tells the story of a British Pakistani teenager who struggles with his old-school father and an atmosphere of racism, and through it he finds life-changing solace in the music of Bruce Springsteen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCING IN THE DARK")

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Something happening somewhere.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLINDED BY THE LIGHT")

TARA DIVINA: (As Yasmeen) You should be listening to our music before you start getting confused and hating yourself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE PROMISED LAND")

SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Explode and tear this whole town apart. Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart.

VIVEIK KALRA: (As Javed) I listen to everything. I can feel it all right here. It's like Bruce knows everything I've ever felt, everything I've ever wanted.

GREENE: "Blinded By The Light" is actually based on a true story, and to talk about it we're joined by MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan. Hey, Kenny.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: How're you doing?

GREENE: So you sound really excited about this film.

TURAN: Yes, I'm really happy to be talking about it.

GREENE: You're pumping your fists - I like it.

TURAN: You know, I'm like in concert mode - full concert mode.

GREENE: So what do you like about it?

TURAN: Well, there are two things. No. 1, it's the songs of Bruce Springsteen, you know.

GREENE: Who doesn't like that?

TURAN: Who doesn't like Bruce Springsteen? And, you know, he writes anthems. He writes these high-energy songs, they just galvanize people. And this film has 17 of them. This is like wall-to-wall Springsteen music.

GREENE: Great soundtrack.

TURAN: Yeah, he gave the filmmakers access to his complete catalog. And the other thing is that this is kind of a Bollywood film. Bollywood is a style of filmmaking - Indian filmmaking where the songs kind of flow seamlessly from the drama. You kind of go from one to the other almost without noticing it. And it's a hugely popular style all over the world. And it kind of - other filmmakers use it, and in this case, that's what's happened.

GREENE: So the Boss and Bollywood. I mean, I might not have put those two together. I don't know if you would have. But what unites them here?

TURAN: Well, what unites them is the story, the story of this teenager in Luton, which is north of London, who's miserable in his life. His father is a really strict, you know, pater familias, runs his life. He really feels miserable. He feels no one understands him.

And a friend of his gives him Bruce Springsteen tapes and says, listen to this, you'll thank me later. And there's a great scene where he first puts it on and his world, like, explodes. The lyrics start to appear on walls. He starts to dance around.

GREENE: He's addicted.

TURAN: He just is - he said, I never knew music could be like this.

GREENE: Well, this takes place in the '80s, right?

TURAN: Yeah.

GREENE: So we're talking about racism from a different era. Are there things about it that you feel like resonate today and will resonate with moviegoers?

TURAN: Yeah, I mean, there's this whole feeling which you see in the film of immigrants out - you know, the National Front, which was very popular in Britain at the time, which was an anti-immigrant party, the hostility to immigrants that you see examples of in the film.

This, sadly, does not feel dated. It doesn't feel like, oh, this is what used to happen. It feels very, very relevant today, and it feels painful in that way. Gurinder Chadha, who directed this film, she did an earlier film called "Bend It Like Beckham" which also dealt with - that was in...

GREENE: Keira Knightley, right?

TURAN: Yes. That was a British Indian family. Again, a strict father and a teenager trying to break out. So she's got experience with this kind of material, and that really helps a lot.

GREENE: You know, I watched "Bend It Like Beckham" on a plane the other day. I mean, that movie just still holds such power in some way culturally. You think this has the potential to be the same thing?

TURAN: I hope so because it does have, again, the jolt of Bruce Springsteen's energy, the jolt of Bollywood-style filmmaking which "Bend It Like Beckham" didn't have. And it's got the same core - emotional core story of a young person, you know. And we all were teenagers trying to find our place, and it's just harder for people who have cultural problems with their parents. And so I think this is a film that could really resonate widely - I hope it does.

GREENE: Kenny, thanks, as always.

TURAN: Thank you, David.

GREENE: That is Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for us here at MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times. "Blinded By The Light," the movie we've been talking about, is in theaters today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.