How a director's love for Bruce Springsteen inspired “Blinded by the Light”

For Sarfraz Manzoor, the music of Bruce Springsteen is a lifelong passion. He first fell in love with “The Boss” while growing up in working-class England, and now, his story is the basis for his new movie “Blinded by the Light,” in which a Pakistani teen from Britain finds salvation in Springsteen’s music.  

“What this film is about, is how a 16-year-old kid in Britain from a Pakistani background has his life transformed by an artist and a singer thousands of miles away over in New Jersey,” Manzoor told “CBS This Morning.”

Manzoor’s fascination with Springsteen began in 1987, when his friend Roops told him that “Bruce is the direct line to all that’s true in the world.”

Manzoor quickly became a convert. “Springsteen was speaking about growing up in a dead-end town. Not getting on with his dad. Having dreams that seemed, you know, bigger than him,” he said. “And I thought, ‘This is my life. He’s actually singing about my life.'”

When his friends found out he was a Springsteen fan, Manzoor said, they were skeptical. “The weird thing is, they thought that we were odd,” he said. “But we thought that we were better than them. Because we thought we had wisdom that they didn’t have.”

Sarfraz Manzoor CBS News

In 1990, when he was 19 years old, Manzoor took his first trip to America – specifically, to Bruce Springsteen’s hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Manzoor and Roops posed together on the boardwalk. “All the places that Springsteen had been singing about, I wanted to see for myself,” he told “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason.

“Did it disappoint?” Mason asked.

“No!” he responded emphatically.

Manzoor first told his story in his 2007 memoir “Greetings from Bury Park,” which was a play on the title of Springsteen’s first album. A few years later, at a London film premiere, he saw Springsteen in person.

“Suddenly he stops. He notices me. And he comes right up to me,” Manzoor said.

Manzoor captured the encounter in a video, which shows Springsteen telling him that “the book was really beautiful.”

“You read it? Oh my god,” he replied.

“It was really a lovely thing,” Springsteen said.

“That was sort of the opening trigger that made me think, ‘Well, if he likes the book, maybe there might be a film in it,'” Manzoor told Mason.

He spent seven years writing the script, which he described as writing for “an audience of one.”  

“Forget the financiers. Forget the producers. We just need something Bruce will like…” he said.

Springsteen eventually signed off on the project. After the film was shot outside London, director Gurinder Chadha showed him an early cut. “He walked over to me and he put his arms around me,” Chadha recalled, “and he gave me a big kiss and said, ”Thank you for looking after me so beautifully.'” 

Manzoor returned to Asbury Park last week for the U.S. premiere, where he was greeted by a surprise guest. “I turn around. There’s Bruce,” he said. “And the thing is, nobody knew for sure that he would turn up.”

Springsteen did more than show up: he performed at the premiere’s after party.

“It’s incredibly powerful,” Manzoor said. “Somebody whose work you have admired so much. And you come to his hometown to show the film. And he endorses it by turning up. How special is that?”

“It’s like the perfect ending,” Mason said.

“It’s a fairy tale,” Manzoor added. “There are no words.” 

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