It is no secret that Gurinder Chadha has redefined the portrayal of the Indian diaspora on-screen. When Bend It Like Beckham released in 2002, it was hailed as path-breaking. Since then, Chadha has cranked out multiple movies, but it is her latest, Blinded By The Light, that’s garnering some serious buzz—not least of all thanks to the charming 21-year-old Viveik Kalra from Windsor, Berkshire (just outside London), who essays the lead role of Javed. A graduate of the Royal Welsh College Of Music & Drama, Kalra made his debut in the TV series Next Of Kin, and also stars in Chadha’s recently released historical period drama Beecham House. He sang and auditioned for the part of Javed thrice, finally choosing to belt out Springsteen’s ‘Born to run’.
The film, which got a standing ovation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of a working-class British Asian family in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, and is based on the life of British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor. Here, Kalra tells us about working with Chadha, getting into character, and being introduced to the lyrical magic of “The Boss”.
ELLE: What was it like to work with Gurinder Chadha?
Viveik Kalra: Incredible; she always made me feel comfortable. There was nothing better than having a long day interrupted by her offering me samosas and pakoras. The sense of family on-set is something I will never forget.
ELLE: What is it about Bruce Springsteen’s music that speaks to Javed?
VK: Bruce’s words are poetry. It’s what attracts Javed to his music in the first place. His lyrics speak to Javed on a deeper level at a time when he’s in need of hope. I hadn’t heard any Springsteen before we began filming, but by the end I was hooked. I couldn’t stop listening to his music for months after.
ELLE: Did you get to interact with Sarfraz Manzoor?
VK: Yes, I was lucky enough to have him beside me during the build-up to filming. He showed me where he grew up, as well as the poetry he wrote when he was young.
ELLE: An aspect of the story that will stay with you?
VK: Racism. Considering that the film is set in Luton in 1987, race is something that cannot be ignored. It was a time when people were getting beaten in the street for simply having darker skin. It disgusted and horrified me when I realised that this was barely over 30 years ago.