Recently, The Nerds of Color was honored to be able to interview some of the cast and the director of Blinded by the Light, an excellent movie about how music can inspire us to chase our dreams and overcome the hardships of growing up. To countdown to the movie’s release on August 16, we’ll be releasing a series of interviews throughout the week chronicling what the dedicated filmmakers behind the film had to say about culture, music, racism, and dreams. To continue this series, we had the privilege of sitting down with acclaimed director, Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham) to discuss the film and the power of dreams. Here’s what she had to say:
NOC: First thing’s first, I wanted to say this is one of the best movies of the year, hands down! I can’t stop gushing about it! I keep telling everyone to see it!
Chadha: Thank you!
So if I can ask, this is all based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoirs, and you captured what it feels like to be a teen of color growing up in the ’80s in England in a less than tolerant society. When you read Sarfraz’s material, what was it about the material that drew you in personally into deciding to make this movie?
Well Sarfraz and I had been friends a long time, even before he wrote the memoir. We were friends and I was a fan. And of course, I’ve had a lot of success in this area with Bend it Like Beckham. So he told me he was writing a memoir, and he had told me that he said to himself, “If I ever write a book, if anyone were to do anything with it [Gurinder] would have the credentials to do it.” And when I read his memoir… he had written it personally about his relationship with his family and Bruce Springsteen, but it wasn’t terribly dramatic. So I told him, “I know how to turn this into a great movie. We’re going to have to come up with some new stuff, and we’re going to have to make it dramatic for the screenplay.” But the essence of it would always be about you, and a young guy growing up with a different background, and how Springsteen would help him find his voice. So it was entirely in my terrain… plus the fact that I was also a Springsteen fan.
As an artist yourself, did you experience any challenges with your parents in regards to pursuing your own personal career as a filmmaker?
No, actually. My parents were very happy when I said I wanted to be a journalist. And I was very lucky. My dad always insisted that I was able to go to college, to the university. But it was always important to him that I stood on my own two feet, and never have to rely on a man in any way. So I was different. And much in Bend It Like Beckham, that dad was very much like my dad. So yeah, my dad was very supportive of everything I did. As was my mom.
What I love about this area… is that kids have their own dreams of what they want, and their parents who migrated have their own dreams for their kids. And sometimes they’re not the same dream. But what you do have is a wonderful negotiation that goes on between the two generations of trying to work out how to make it work, and my films are about that space. That space where people really try to tolerate and come to terms with what each other’s worlds are about so they can find their dreams, but still support others. And that’s what Blinded by the Light is about.
One of the other things you touch on in the movie is that you tackle the idea of prejudice in the ’80s in London. And if we look at the world today, racial turmoil is still prominent. I wanted to ask you what your thoughts were in terms of what this movie will provide to the world when audiences see it today?
Well I think it’s a film that shows a vision of the world through the music of Bruce Springsteen. So I want people to come out understanding that, as he says, “nobody wins unless we all win.” He tells stories of ordinary people trying to get by and trying to make a living the best way they can, and there’s a lot of empathy in these stories. And I think that’s the whole thing about Bruce for me, and that’s what I’m hoping people take away from the movie.
To Chadha’s point, Springsteen’s music and messages definitely have a way of connecting audiences everywhere, as they speak to the universal, human plight of needing to get through life any way we can. These were the messages the film touched on, and what ultimately inspires the protagonist, Javed, and his real-life inspiration, Sarfraz, to persist and work hard to pursue their dreams. We can’t thank Gurinder Chadha enough for her time, and for a great movie with a wonderful message!
Coming later this week, we still have interviews with the man himself, Sarfraz Manzoor, as well as the lead actor in the film, Viveik Kaldra. Stay tuned, Nerds!
Blinded by the Light hits theaters August 16!