An interaction with Viveik Kalra

A scene with Javed (Viveik Kalra) and Eliza (Nell Williams) in a crowd

India Post had the opportunity to chat with Viveik Kalra, lead actor of “Blinded By The Light”, the inspirational British comedy-drama directed by Gurinder Chadha, via phone call from London, United Kingdom. He plays the role of the British Pakistani teenager, Javed, growing up in the 1980s in Luton, England. The film is based on screenwriter Sarfraz Manzoor’s own experiences and is adapted from his memoir, “Greetings From Bury Park” published in 2007.

India Post (IP): How did you get this role? Did you just go to an audition?

Viveik Kalra (VK): This is my second job as an actor. My first job was on the TV show, “Next of Kin”. Gurinder saw me on the TV show and called me for an audition.

IP: How did you prepare for this role? Did you spend a lot of time with Sarfraz (Manzoor) on whose memoir this film is based to flesh out the character?

Viveik Kalra as Javed
Viveik Kalra as Javed

VK: I spent time with Sarfraz before the shooting began. He took me to his hometown (Luton, England where the film is based), to the first home he grew up in, the second home he grew up in, the places he used to hang out as a kid. He took me to this cafe, we were filming in the exact same cafe. It looked the same, they had all these laminated menus from all those years ago.

IP: Any particular difficulties in playing the role?

VK: Playing younger than myself – the character is a few years younger than I am – that was one of the difficulties. Dealing with harsh situations set in 1987 in Luton was really difficult. The character is a British Pakistani working class youth in the 1980s; it was not a perfect combination of factors. He was, indeed, a victim. The racism was hard to come to grips with.

IP: Do you have any particular aspiration as an actor?

VK: I am very lucky, a lot of opportunity is arriving. I am at an early age, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself… Maybe 10 years down the line, five years down, I will know what I want. Right now, I need to see something and really connect with it and know if it is something one can totally give oneself to as an actor.

IP: Do you have any role models, any inspiration from other actors?

VK: Not necessarily. Inspiration comes from real life. People who in their day to day lives, exercise compassion, exercise gratitude, they are the real heroes. I am not really doing anything, just pretending, these people are actually doing it.

IP: Do you have anything to say (a message)?

VK: What this film does is not something a lot of films do. What it does is take this immigrant story, depict it on the screen and uplift this generation. (Referring to character of Javed’s father) It culturally uplifts that person in a positively healing way… in this day and age, when divisions are constantly created. Though this film is about this person, in this place, at this time, it still resonates with a lot of people who are unlike this character. It is about striving, this character is oppressed, beaten down again and again, yet gets up and strives. That is a beautiful quality in a person. It is the immigrant experience of constantly striving in the face of hardship.

As told to Lakshmi Iyer

(Since this was not live recorded, some quotes have been edited/paraphrased.)