“Well if dreams came true, oh, wouldn’t that be nice,
But this ain’t no dream we’re living through the night,
Girl, you want it, you take, you pay the price”
In the final act of Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded By The Light, a timid Javed steps up to a microphone at his college’s award ceremony to read an excerpt from an essay he wrote. He begins to read a piece in which he talks about how the music and values of Bruce Springsteen’s American dream can inspire a young, brown boy from a small British town. As he is doing so, his father, mother, and younger sister walk in, catching him off guard. Throughout the movie, Javed struggles with his family, with the country he was born and raised in, and himself. His father of older age worked in a factory before being let go due to unemployment issues in the country. His mother sews and helps provide for the family, working day and night. His younger sister also struggles with her identity but finds her own ways of feeling free. Being from Pakistan, his family holds certain values and has certain expectations when it comes to family. For Javed, some of these values don’t align with his life and dream of leaving his home town for University and being a writer. After his friend Roops introduces him to Bruce, “the direct line to all that's true in this shitty world,” Springsteen, he finally finds someone who speaks to him.
“If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister, I ain’t no boy, no, I’m a man,
And I believe in a promised land”
If you’ve never heard a Bruce Springsteen song, know that he sings directly from his experiences and his heart. His lyrics might not be as complex as other artists, but that doesn’t stop his words from ringing true. During the mid-point of the movie Javed and his father have a confrontation in which his father asks if he thinks Bruce sings for people like them? That’s understandable. You take one look at The Boss, especially during the ’80s, and you see a wealthy white rockstar. He’s got the looks, he’s got talent, he probably won’t struggle a day in his life. And at the same time, Javed’s family is in the gutter. They are part of the lower-middle class (at best) and they live in a country where you walk down the road and see white men with swastikas tattooed on their arms (sounds vaguely familiar). How could this person understand anything his family or any minority or struggling family is going through? Because that was his life before his fame. Springsteen came from a blue-collar working family like millions of Americans. Through his music, he talks about that dream - the dream of many people to be something greater, to not be stuck in the sandbox that life puts you in, that there is a promised land out there for all of us.
As Javed continues his speech, he says, “I know having dreams doesn’t make me a bad son. I also know that everything I am is because of the sacrifices my mom and dad made.” Up to that moment, Javed had lashed out at his father, proclaimed he was born at the wrong time and failed to appreciate the sacrifices his family made for him and his sister. Javed’s father left Pakistan to pursue a better life for his family, and it didn’t work out exactly as he hoped. He got angry at the world, something Springsteen would completely understand. It took some time for Javed to understand that and to realize how lucky he was to have this family. Although at times it seemed all they wanted to do was hold him back or suppress his dreams, it took them some time to realize they shouldn’t do that either. Javed’s real American dream is to pursue the life he wants while also keeping the family he has. Although he will leave his hometown of Luton, he knows the memories and experiences he had there will never leave him. Javed was blinded by the light no more.
“We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run”
Blinded By The Light has its cheesy and sentimental moments, but it tells a story that’s extremely relateable. Everyone has had that moment when they come across a new artist who instantly finds a way through their music to impact our lives in some way. That artist, for me, was Bruce, too. As a young, minority who was born and raised in a country that at times seems to be against me, who left home for University and has dreams of being a writer - I wish I had heard Springsteen's words sooner. Watching Blinded by the Light at Sundance was the first time I ever heard Born to Run - or at least heard it and realized what an amazing song it is.
You don’t have to be a Springsteen fan to understand what this movie is trying to say. It’s a combination of Chadha’s heartwarming storytelling, Sarfraz Manzoor’s real-life story that inspired this movie, and Bruce’s words which are so expertly put together that you will quickly realize how powerful this message is and why everyone in some shape or form can relate to it. There are millions of people like Javed out there right now, dreaming about reaching their promised land, and if we are to believe Bruce, well, we will get there because baby we were born to run.