Showbiz / Brexit, The Brit And The Boss: Gurinder Chadha On Why ‘Blinded By The Light’ Is The Movie Her Heart Needed

Brexit, The Brit And The Boss: Gurinder Chadha On Why ‘Blinded By The Light’ Is The Movie Her Heart Needed

Showbiz Aug 16, 2019

With her exhilarating film Blinded By The Light (New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.) coming out today, director Gurinder Chadha shares with us her love for The Boss, how Brexit made her do it and why sometimes you just gotta go all in. 

It was an elevator pitch for the ages.

When you’re doing a movie which heavily features the iconic songs of Bruce Springsteen you have to ask The Boss first. And that opportunity presented itself at the most unexpected — yet totally expected place. On the red carpet. It was there that director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, Viceroy’s House) along with her friend, journalist and a Springsteen devotee, Sarfraz Mansoor spotted Bruce Springsteen. Chadha already knew that she wanted to make Mansoor’s memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll into a film but Mansoor knew in his heart that “without Bruce’s blessing, there is no movie” Chadha recounted. “Luckily for us on the red carpet — Bruce spotted Sarfraz and recognized him from being in the front of all his concerts. He came over and said, ‘Hey man, I read your book. It‘s really beautiful’ and Sarfraz had a meltdown.” Chadha laughed.

 

Blinded By The Light
Gurinder Chadha’s latest film, Blinded By The Light. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

She knew she had to make it happen. Fast. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have three seconds to immediately recruit Bruce Springsteen right now.’ And that’s what I did. I went, ‘Bruce, I’m Gurinder Chadha, I made Bend It Like Beckham’ and he was like, ‘yeah, I heard about that movie.’  I said, ‘I really want to make a film of the book, please will you — please support us?’ He looked at me and he looked at Sarfraz and said, ‘Sounds good. Talk to John’ and that was it! John was his manager and he was standing behind him. I made contact with his team and we that’s how we got his support and he has been with us all along.”

She had numerous projects on the go since their destined meeting including the musical adaptation of Bend It Like Beckham as well as directing Viceroy’s House. Immediately after wrapping up that cinematic project, her mind was already set on what her next film would be. She had the script for Blind It By The Light kicking around but wanted to be sure that it didn’t turn into another Bend It in terms of it telling a similar story about the generational culture clash between Desi parents and their children.

Then Brexit happened. “There was all this xenophobia everywhere.” Chadha sadly reflected. “It was the breakdown of society around me and that’s when I said, ‘I need to do something about this.’ I put all of my tears and my anger about this xenophobia into Blinded By The Light.”

 

Blinded By The Light
Blinded By The Light: L-R: Nell Williams as Eliza, Viveik Kalra as Javed and Aaron Phaguda as Roops. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

 

Shot in six weeks, the film tells the story of Javed (played by Viviek Kalra in his film debut), a young Pakistani aspiring writer in a sleepy English town who navigates his high school world, the culture clash with his Muslim father and finds consolation in the songs from another author — Bruce Springsteen. All up against the racially charged backdrop of 1987 Britain.

When it came to bringing Kalra into the light per say, Chadha — as any director worth their salt would and should— understood that it was up to her to really help him hone his craft. “He has great instincts. Whenever I gave him a note he really listened, he really took it on board and so I was able to help craft that performance.” The shooting proved to be a valuable training ground for the film freshman. “My job was to make sure he delivered a performance that was cinema-worthy. I had to take this kid from drama school, nurture him and get that performance out of him. I think what he learned in the six weeks of making the movie he probably would never have learned in school.” Chadha explained.

Back to Bruce.

At the North American premiere which fittingly was held at Springsteen’s home town of Asbury Park New Jersey, Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa made their red carpet appearance. At this point he was already part of the family. “My kids ran up to him and gave him a hug. Like you would hug an uncle” Chadha laughed. But that wasn’t his first screening.

 

Blinded By The Light: L-R: Aaron Phagura, Sarfraz Manzoor, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Gurinda Chadha and Viveik Kalra at the North American Premiere in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Photo by: Dave Allocca/StarPix/Warner Bros. 

As soon as the film was ready, Chadha’s first priority was to have Springsteen see it and give him the “right to reply” before anything else. She flew to New York and gave Springsteen a personal screening. “We sat in a room and showed it to him. At the end of the film he walked over to me and put his arms around me and gave me a big kiss and he said, ‘Well, thank you for looking after me so beautifully. Don’t change a thing'”.

“We sat down for an hour and he talked about all the things he loved. Then he came to the North American premier and it was awesome. He really didn’t need to do that. He had given us so much already.”

 

Blinded By The Light is in theatres today. Please take your family, your tribe and anyone you know to go and check this movie out. Trust us on this one. We’ve been playing Springsteen vinyls since! 

 

Main Image Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. 

 

 

 

Hina P. Ansari

Hina P. Ansari

Author

Hina P. Ansari is a graduate from The University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario). Since then she has carved a successful career in Canada's national fashion-publishing world as the Entertainment/Photo Editor at FLARE Magazine, Canada's national fashion magazine. She was the first South Asian in...

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