Why Bruce Springsteen Let ‘Blinded by the Light’ Use His Music
Independent film maker Gurinder Chadha is a friend of Sarfraz Manzoor, who wrote the book Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll about his discovery of Springsteen’s music and how it affected his development as a Muslim living in the U.K. in the ‘80s.
“Sarfraz is like a super fan of Bruce’s,” Chadha told Variety at the time of the comedy-drama’s premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it received an enthusiastic standing ovation and secured a $15 million rights deal. “He’s seen him 150 times, so much so that Bruce recognizes him at concerts, because he’s probably the only Pakistani in the audience, and he’s got a big afro. When Sarfraz wrote his book and gave it to me, I said, ‘I know how to make this film, but we have to get Bruce on our side.’”
That moment came in 2010, when Springsteen attended the premiere of his movie The Promise in London. “I was invited,” Chadra said. “I took Sarfraz as my plus-one. We stood on the red carpet, hoping to take photographs with him. As he walked down, he banana-ed and walked over to Sarfraz and said, ‘Man, I read your book! It’s really beautiful.’”
She recalled that Manzoor “started hyperventilating” –– truly blinded by the light – but that she, for one, was ready for action. “I ran over and sort of seized the moment and said, ‘Hi Bruce! My name is Gurinda. I’m a film director. We really want to make a film of the book.’ He looked at Sarfraz and me and said, ‘Sounds good. Talk to [manager] Jon Landau.’”
Chadra said both she and Manzoor immediately knew that they needed a script that Springsteen “had to love.” She continued: “Bruce’s words are as much part of the narrative as our own dialogue. We sent it to him, and waited and waited and waited. The message we got back [was]: ‘I’m all good with this. Give them what they want.’ Our timing was great because he really has been looking at legacy and the impact of his work and what that means for him at his age.”
‘Blinded by the Light’ Trailer
Chadra had separately reported that Springsteen had been invited to the premiere but decided not to attend as “he didn’t want to take away from the movie.” However, she confirmed she’d screened it for him during 2018, and afterwards he’d told her: “Thank you for looking after me so beautifully. Don’t change a thing; it’s perfect.”
Blinded by the Light arrives in theaters on Aug. 16, starring Viveik Kalra, Nell Williams, Hayley Atwell and Rob Brydon. More fictionalized than Manzoor’s memoir, it follows the story of Javed, a teenager who discovers Springsteen’s music while he struggles to make sense of life in a town near London during the social upheavals under Margaret Thatcher’s government.