In our second part of our Blinded by the Light INTERVUES, I sat down immediately with Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll author Sarfraz Manzoor, Viveik Kalra who plays Javed and Aaron Phagura who plays Javed’s mate Roops in this amazing film.
You mentioned what struck you about Springsteen first is the way he connects with the audience. Can you tell us more about that?
Sarfraz Manzoor: Well, basically I grew up in a town called Luton in the early 80’s, and it’s a very kind of industrial, dead-end kind of town. And not much hope, not many jobs. So, if you’re growing up in a place like this, you want hope, you want to have an idea of how you can change yourself and get out of that. And Springsteen singing about those kinds of things, you know? He comes from New Jersey, he comes from a similar background. So when I heard the music, I thought, “this is a guy who’s talking about my life. And yes, it’s in America, and yes there’s rivers and highways and mountains and it’s not the sort of landscape of the town I grew up in,” but lyrically and thematically, there was this connection.
So talk to us about the audition process, Viveik and Aaron. How did you get into the roles and were you fans of Springsteen before the role?
Viveik Kalra (Javed) : Let’s answer this question together.
VK &AP: No.
DR, SM, VK & AP: (laugh)
VK: We were not fans of Bruce Springsteen, but both have become fans of Springsteen. But yeah, it was a tricky thing to get into, I guess I can speak for both of us. It was a tricky thing that we had to mentally get into, but then once we got into it, we were obsessed for the period of shooting and afterwards. I had to make sure I found a way out of listening to too much Bruce because I was genuinely becoming obsessed. But the audition process was cool. I got three auditions, and the sort of funniest part was singing Born to Runin the audition, which was in Capella. G just busted out a massive—you can tell what she did.
Aaron Phagura (Roops): She literally pulled out this massive speaker and we had to do—I think you had to do two scenes of dialogue as well?
VK: Some, I don’t remember.
AP: It was like two scenes of normal dialogue, running along the script. Bear in mind, it’s the first time meeting her. And then on the 13th, she’s like, bang! Just wacks out a speaker onto the table.
VK: Put it at top volume.
AP: At top volume, and then she’s like, “cool, we’re doing Born to Run.” And we had to just scream in ecstasy, Born to Run at the first time meeting Gurinder.I think we gave off a good first impression, right?
Well, let’s go over the Born to Run scene, which is one of my favorite scenes of the film. What was it like to film that epic shot?
AP: For me, it was a bit hard to start with because we’re in Luton, and there’s people coming out of their house; don’t look the friendliest. Coming out of their house, like watching us, arms crossed like, “what are you doing in my neighborhood?” They weren’t too happy, and I felt like it kind of knocked me out of scene a little bit and kind of knocked my focus a bit; but, I mean not in terms of this, but the confidence I gained from this. After the third or fourth day I was like, “I don’t care. When you can scream or (?) your own song down a street in Luton in front of loads of strangers?” I mean, you can pretty much do anything. How was it for you? (laughs)
SM: How long did that whole sequence take?
VK: Took about three weeks to film.
Really? Three weeks?
VK: Two, three…was it three? Yeah. I think it…not just that sequence, but other tidbits in between.But it was over the course of like, three, two or three weeks. So, it was awhile. But yes, running up and down the streets of Luton singing top of your lungs is not a normal thing to do.
AP: And dancing like—(starts dancing)
VK: Yeah, we had to do some funny dance moves.
Yeah, some 80’s dance moves. (laughs)
VK: They’re like, “oh, what’s this here?” It’s 80’s dance moves and we obviously had no idea. And someone on YouTube showed it to us and we practiced it like (dances) in these offices that other people were working in. Remember that guy, singing, dancing in these peoples’ offices as they were having a casual workday. Doing all these 80’s dance moves.
DR, SM, VK & AP: (laugh)
SM: Excellent. Someone tweeted me today to say, “this guy obviously did not grow up in Luton, because if anyone did that Born to Run thing in Bury Park, they would clearly get beaten up.
DR, SM, VK & AP: (laugh)
VK: (claps hands) That’s in the deleted scenes, isn’t it? The deleted scenes.
Yeah, look out on the Blu-Ray. So, what was it like watching the casting process for characters based on not only yourself but also members of your family and your friends?
SM: Well, the great thing is Gurinder’s a genius when it comes to casting. So, if you think about the work she’s done, with Bend it like Beckham, and in terms of Parminder Nagra. So, I kind of trusted her, for one thing. And secondly, I was terrified because they are real people as well. But it was really cool, actually, because before we started filming, I got to meet Viveik a couple of weeks beforehand. And then I met you as well, didn’t I? (referring to Aaron) And it was just really nice to just kind of hang out and spend a bit of time, and I think ultimately, it’s about trust. You know, it’s like when you work with directors, when you work with actors, they know what they’re doing. That’s what their job is.
So, there’s no point in trying to tell them what to do, so all I did was tell the a little bit about my own stories, show them a few places, took them to Luton and then just let them do their thing, because you know, that’s what they’re there for. That’s what their job is, so it’s not like trying to second guess them. What’s amazing is, like the way we’re all bound up together. So, there is a real Roops I was talking to today. And Aaron and him are bound together, and there’s obviously the Javed is heavily based on me, and me and Viveik. So it’s hilarious. I just did a book signing in this bookstore, and I’m surrounded by books of my book, and it’s his (referring to Viveik) face on them!
SM: It’s kind of a weird thing to have that kind of link now, you know what I mean, which is going to last. So, thats kind of a weird thing.
This question’s for all three of you. What is the one thing you hope audiences take away from the film? I have what I would take away from the film; what would you hope audiences take away from the film?
VK: I think probably that people are more than just surface level or more than what you think they may be. I said this the other day, but (referring to Sarfraz) you look at yourself and you wouldn’t think you were someone who had a thirty year love affair with Bruce Springsteen. But yeah, and he’s changed your life and his words have really have had a positive impact on you and has changed the way you live your life. I’m sure you won’t mind me telling this story.
SM: Depends on which one. (laughs)
VK: No, I’m sure you won’t. You were saying about how you had the opportunity to see Bruce, or talk at a book festival, and out of those two things, you chose to go and talk to the book festival. And I remember you saying, “because that’s what Bruce would have wanted me to do.” That sort of level of inspiration goes deeper and beyond just an obsession with someone. It’s where someone’s words inspired you to live a better life. You see Javed, in the film’s relationship with Roops, this mate who inspires him to live a better life; his relationship with his girlfriend in the film, who he goes and asks out and becomes his girlfriend in the film because he’s inspired to live a better life by this man (referring to Aaron) over here.
And his relationship with his father is a key one, though. That’s what Saf’s book was about. Javed and his relationship with his dad is key, you know? Living in a world which it’s not most ideal place to be as a young Asian man wanting to be a writer and trying to get out of that, and you know, the same time realizing that you don’t have to get away from anything you know in order to find hope and happiness for yourself. That was really long, sorry.
Oh, that’s ok.
AP: You know one thing you said about the father and son storyline in the film? For me, that was my favorite. I’m hoping that the parents of today learn to be more supportive of their children and let them lead their own path. And I’m also hoping the parents of tomorrow—the children of today and the parents of tomorrow—understand that your parents do only want the best for you. And regardless of their lenience of whatever path you take, they might not be the most friendly in that sense, bu at the same time, they only want what’s best for you, and they’re only judging life on their own experience.
Alright, well gentlemen, thank you so much!
AP: Thank you.
It was an excellent film. It had me dancing in the aisles a little bit. I really appreciate it.
Blinded by the Light – In theatres Friday and dont forget to check my first interview with director Gurinder Chadha