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Film Of The Week Bitter truth sweetened by light-hearted humour

MARIA DUARTE is uplifted by a comedy that tackles racism head on

Blinded by the Light (12A)
Directed by Gurinder Chadha

SET in Margaret Thatcher’s austere Britain, against the rise of racism and the National Front, a Pakistani teenage boy’s life is transformed by his discovery of Bruce Springsteen’s music in this fun and uplifting comedy drama.

The film, directed and co-written by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), is inspired by the memoir of journalist Sarfraz Mansoor and the words and music of the Boss which speak directly to 16-year-old Javed (Viveik Kalra) in 1987 Luton as he battles to find his own voice.

A political animal, he writes poems and songs in protest about Thatcher and Reaganomics for his best friend and aspiring singer Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman, a Jamie Cullum lookalike) but his dream is to leave his home and become a writer.

However, his father (Kulvinder Ghir) wants him to get his A-levels and go to university in order to get a good job.

He sees himself as liberal telling his son he doesn’t have to become a doctor — a lawyer, accountant or estate agent will do.

Expressing his admiration for the Jewish work ethic, he advises his son to “follow the Jews” in his class.

This was the year though that Thatcher became the longest-serving prime minister, unemployment stood at more than three million and the prospect of getting your ideal job or any job was a pipe dream.

After 16 years working at Vauxhall Motors, Javed’s father is laid off with half the workforce and then spends his days visiting the jobcentre with no prospect of finding work.

Punctuated by a fantastic 1980s soundtrack and Springsteen’s greatest hits, the film has a light and humorous if bordering on a cheesy tone which belies a much darker undertone.

The stark depiction of the blatant racism and violence against Pakistanis at this time includes a skinhead spitting in Javed’s face after daubing “Pakis Out” on a wall, little kids peeing through the letterbox of the home of a Pakistani family and a violent National Front march through Luton.

More than 30 years on and racism is rampant once again in the wake of the Brexit vote.

But the film’s message is to fight racism with humour and laughter and for the Boss’s fans this hugely entertaining comedy drama will be their Nirvana.

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