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Gurinder Chadha’s New Film Is A Winner All The Way

Blinded By The Light (Netflix)

Starring  Viveik Kalra, Aaron Phagura,Nell Williams

Directed by Gurinder Chadha

Rating: *** ½ (3 and a half stars)

What  Danny Boyle couldn’t  do to  the Beatles,  Gurinder Chadha has done for Bruce Springsteen in this amiable, if predictable, diasporic dramedy about a Pakistani  British teenager Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra, winsome and honest) struggling to find his bearings in a hostile  pre-Brexit London while  his tyrannical tradition-bound father Malik Khan(Kulvinder Ghir)spreads his  toxic blustering bigotry all across his family of sonm two  daughters and  a  typically repressed wife.

 It is all a bit too predictable, thought no less enjoyable for it.

 It wouldn’t be  inaccurate to  say this is  Gurinder’s most confident  and  captivating  work since  her game-changing Bend It Like Beckham  . In fact many of  the dramatic tropes and  slopes  in the storytelling are  identical in both  films. In Beckham it was Parminder Nagra and football forming an unorthodox alliance.  Here it  is Viveik Kalra and Springsteen.

 The  most charming  aspect  of  this  robustly constructed aspirational tale is  the way it uses  Bruce Springsteen’s workingclass songs, not just to  carry  the fluid if somewhat  fabricated story  forward, but also to  define the young confused protagonist’s  self-searching  questions on identity and selfhood .

In Danny Boyle’s recent  film Yesterday  the Beatles songs came on aribitarily without connecting with the  plot. Here  every melodic move matters, and that’s a blessing in musical disguise.

Though outwardly this  film favours the  fluffy flavour there are references  to race attacks in Britain and  there  is  a deeper  resonance to Malik’s friendship with his  English pal Matt (Dean Charles Chapman)  which I wished was more explored.

 And really, the young British activist  girlfriend(Nell Williams)seems too conveniently devoted to  Javed , for no other  reason except because Gurinder wills it.

Much more  interesting is Javed’s bromance with his best friend Roops(Aaron Phagura)  who introduces  Javed to  Springsteen. By  the time Javed drives out of his smalltown existence in his father’s vintage  car, father and son  bonding over  Springsteen’s songs , my perceptions were dipped in  an ethereal haze.

I  almost expected Springsteen  to show  up.But no. We are spared that  joy. Dancing in  the dark is so much more exciting.

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