(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem about poems or poets that inspired us to write. I went a bit broad to apply to anyone who has been stirred by another’s words. Incidentally, my own inspirations include Longfellow, Tennyson, Dr. Seuss, and Robert Service.)
I’d read and heard so many words
Before I chanced on yours,
And yet I found my being stirred,
My vision blurred, no dream deferred,
Like a patient with his pick of cures.
I’m not the first; so many more
Before me felt the thrill
Of finding phrases to explore
Of peaceful war and whispered roar,
Of things I know or never will.
I’m now a fan, have been for years,
But wish I could return
To when you widened my frontiers
And sparked the gears between my ears
And made my poet’s spirit burn.
MPA rating: PG-13 (for language and themes)
Considering this was one of my Top Twelve movies watched last year, I suppose it’s about time I got around to reviewing it. Blinded by the Light is a feel-good delight of a film, especially for any fan of Bruce Springsteen, and although I never considered myself a fan of “The Boss,” I think this movie made me one.
Based off the experiences of real-life journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani Brit growing up in the 1980s, caught between the blatant racism of some of his peers and the strict traditionalism of his immigrant dad (Kulvinder Ghir). Feeling even more misunderstood than most teenagers, he begins to despair, only to be jolted to inspiration when a Sikh classmate offers him some Springsteen tapes. Feeling a strong connection to Bruce’s music and themes, Javed renews his aspirations as a writer and begins a romance with a student activist named Eliza (Nell Williams), eventually coming into conflict with his father as he pushes his way further into the world and away from his family.
There are certain protagonists, mainly young writers or dreamers, with whom I just feel a natural kinship: Shizuku in Whisper of the Heart, Mia in La La Land, John-Boy on The Waltons, and now Javed Khan as well. Even if I never had to contend with the racism he does, I found myself able to relate and sympathize so much with his poetry efforts, doubts, and the inspiration he finds in music. Hayley Atwell is a warmly encouraging presence as his English teacher, reminding me of Laura Dern in October Sky. And while disapproving parents are common to this kind of coming-of-age story, Ghir as Javed’s father remains believable in his bullheadedness, perhaps because Javed himself isn’t entirely blameless, and the compromise they both come to is brilliantly heartwarming. Plus, he can be a source of humor, as when he keeps thinking that Springsteen is Jewish.
I was never really aware of it, but my mom told me recently that Bruce Springsteen was one of my late father’s favorite musicians. Since I know he loved the Beatles, I find it interesting that two of his favorite artists were both immortalized by 2019 British films with South Asian protagonists (this one and Yesterday). Not unlike Sing Street, the musical segments add enormous entertainment value to offset the heavier scenes, shots of joy and dancing backed by greatest hits like “Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” “Born to Run,” and (of course) “Blinded by the Light.” If only they’d thrown in “Rosalita” or “Dancing in the Dark” too….
I liked how the lyrics are often shown on-screen to highlight the songs’ poetic aspect that so appeals to Javed, and I was surprised at how some characters considered Springsteen “old” music by 1987. Funny, catchy, and poignant, Blinded by the Light proves the timelessness of not only “The Boss,” but musical and poetic inspiration in general and how it can change impressionable lives for the better.
Best line: (Miss Clay) “Tell me about your poems.”
(Javed) “They’re crap, miss.”
(Miss Clay) “Yeah, but they’re your crap. And if you keep at it, one day you might think they’re not crap.”
© 2020 S.G. Liput
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