Dir: Gurinder Chadha
Starring Viviek Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ginatra, Aaron Phugatra, Nikita Mehta, Hayley Atwell, Sally Phillips, Rob Brydon
Having, in the last few years, conquered both Broadway and the best seller, Bruce Springsteen sets his sights on cinema – albeit obliquely through Gurinder Chadha’s adaptation of Sarfraz Manzoor’s Boss-flavoured memoir. And conquer it he does – in fact, all concerned do (yes, even Rob Brydon.)
Viveik Kalra is Javed, Manzoor’s avatar as such, a young Muslim boy growing up in 1980s Luton, feeling out of place both in his family’s home and culture and the increasingly racially conflicted ways of his adopted country, who finds his true inner voice and spirit in the music of The Boss, here’s translated into his head and heart by that most poignantly missing artefact of ‘80s pop culture, the cassette tape. Springsteen speaks to him and through his tunes, Javed finds his way in the world.
Chanda’s film, easily her finest work to date, in an unadulterated effervescent work of joy. A fully paid up member of the Springsteen fan club, she displays a great sense of how to use his music in powerful terms, capturing both the inner feelings of her central character, and beautifully dragging it into the world around him for an audience – any audience, not just Bruce fans – to understand the power it is having within this story. Sometimes this manifests itself as lyrics exploding onto the screen, writ large on derelict garage walls, Javed’s conversion being played out heroically against the backdrop of Michael Fish’s famous (non) hurricane of 1987. At two other moments – very tellingly Thunder Road and Born To Run – the movie turns into a full blown musical, sung and danced through the streets of a decidedly otherwise dull and dismal Luton. (Arch Springsteen fan Brydon even gets to sing along on the former.)
In the wonderfully expressive face of Kalra, Chandha has found a genuine star, but all the cast are note perfect here. However, it is in the timeless beauty of Springsteen’s songs that the movie really finds it soul. Although it’s fair to point out – especially for the non-believers – that this is not really a film about Bruce Springsteen. It’s a film about finding your thing, whatever that might be, and the sheer joy that your own liberation can bring you.
The dogs on Main Street do indeed howl, 'cause of course they understand – this is a beautiful movie.
Follow us on Twitter @lastwordonearth