NEAR the beginning of Gurinder Chadha's new film Blinded By the Light, there's a little clue as to what is coming. On the wall of the film’s central character Javed's bedroom you might notice a poster for Julien Temple's ill-fated 1985 film Absolute Beginners.

Gurinder, I say to the director, you are telling us this is going to be a musical, aren't you?

"That's it," the 59-year-old film director tells me with a big smile on her face as she sits opposite me in the restaurant in Glasgow's Malmaison hotel. "You've got it."

To be fair, Chadha's film is a rather more modest affair than Temple's full-on musical adaptation of Colin MacInnes's cult novel. But it's got music, dancing and a background of racial tension, so there are echoes.

It’s also looking back to a time 30 years before it was made. Adapted from journalist Safraz Manzoor's memoir (by Manzoor himself), Greetings From Bury Park, Blinded By the Light is set in Luton in 1987 and tells the story of a young Pakistani kid who develops an obsession with the songs of Bruce Springsteen.

He may be called Javed in the film (played by Viveik Kalra), but Manzoor was that Pakistani kid.

"Safraz and I have known each other for a long time," says Chadha, "and that's because we're massive Springsteen fans. I'd seen his interview with Springsteen in a newspaper and I was like: 'Oh my God, I thought I was the only Asian Springsteen fan in Britain.'"

Chadha, who made her debut in Bhaji on the Beach and hit it big with Bend It Like Beckham, has found all sorts of contemporary resonances in Manzoor’s story. Blinded By the Light is a joyful movie, but there's anger in it too. Partly, she says, because the making of it coincided with the Brexit vote.

"I was so upset with all the ugliness around me at the time of Brexit – the fact that people thought they could go on trains and buses and start abusing people who'd been born here. I had a lot of anger and frustration about that and I said: 'OK, I am now going to make this film next. And I did a couple of passes on the script and vented all my anger and frustration into Blinded By the Light. Even though it's set in 1987, it has a very visceral sense of what was happening back then with the rise of the National Front."

Do you fear we're going backwards? "No, I think there's been a lot of progress. I do think a lot of people who voted to leave weren't informed about the reality of what that actually meant. It was more a vote against the government."

It should be noted, too, that Chadha doesn't do issue movies. Her films are human stories first and foremost. "Yeah, because there's more to me than the fact that I'm brown. There's more to our lives. Certainly, my life is full of so much joy and humour and fun. I like to get drunk like everyone else now and again."

When was the last time? "Oh well, I've just come back from Ireland, so that's not a good question. That's why I'm on the water."

The idea of the movie has been around for a while. Back when he was writing his memoir Manzoor suggested to Chadha that there might be a movie in it. "And sure enough, when I read the book, I was like: 'OK, I know how to turn this memoir into a really good film. But we have to change some things.'

"In his book he was protecting his parents a lot, which was lovely, and we all do that. But I wanted to mine that further. I wanted to make him a bit cooler, with a girlfriend.

“The important thing for me was not to make it a jukebox musical and I worked hard at taking lyrics from the songs that I felt were relevant and making them work for Javed's story.

"Luckily, I didn't have to change anything because the beauty of the songs is that whatever Bruce was writing in the seventies in New Jersey and what he was feeling was exactly the same as this 16-year-old Pakistani kid was feeling in Luton a decade later."

That 16-year-old kid is now in his late forties and a little dazzled that his story is now a movie. "It's a weird feeling," Safraz Manzoor admits. "It's so ridiculous to come from the life I've led to this world. It can feel a bit dreamlike."

In Malmaison he's on the water as well. It is, I say, a bit of a risible question given that he's written a book and now a film about it, but what was it about Springsteen that spoke to him in Luton back in the eighties?

"I can answer that a million different ways but one of the things is if you're a kid growing up usually there might be an older brother who tells you about R.E.M. or The Smiths or Iggy Pop. Or you might possibly have a cool dad.

"I didn't have a cool dad; my older brother wasn't cool and so I never had anyone opening the door. So, Bruce, in some ways, opened the door and functioned as a cool older relative."

In Springsteen's lyrics Manzoor heard a glimpse of another life, one that Luton couldn't offer. "If you listen to Dancing in the Dark. 'There's something happening somewhere ...' That's exactly how I felt in Luton."

So central are Springsteen's songs to the movie that it's unthinkable that it would have been made if the singer didn't approve their use.

The word came through in 2017, when Manzoor was at a book festival in Hay-On-Wye, with his wife and kids.

“It was a couple of days before my birthday and I get this phone call from Gurinder and she sings Happy Birthday to me. Bruce’s management had just said we’re all good with it.

"My first instinct was to go upstairs and tell my wife, but I'd had a massive argument with my wife earlier that day, and it was something ridiculously petty as they always are. She'd gone to bed upset with me and I was like: 'I really want to share this big, ridiculous life-changing moment with her, but the gear-change from the argument is too big.'

And I couldn't do it. So, I was literally just jumping around in this cottage excited with this news that only I knew."

The filming was itself another out-of-body experience, he says. He'd get emails from the film’s designers asking him what shade of brown shagpile carpet his family had in their Luton home.

"The first time I went into the production office it was literally like visiting the house of a pathological stalker because there were all these walls with photographs of my childhood and photographs of the Arndale Centre in Luton."

What was Chadha like to work with? "The thing that is brilliant about Gurinder is that, if she has faith in you, you kind of feel that despite all the obstacles it will come through.

"To be honest, the story on its own is not enough. This is not an Avengers film. It was an incredible thing to feel that I had someone of that stature and that experience on my side to battle for me. I could walk behind her and she was the one who was clearing everything through."

In 1987 Chadha was working as a BBC journalist and attending Bhangra all-dayers (there's one in the movie). What, I ask her, was the 1980s she wanted to recreate in Blinded By the Light?

"I wanted to create that time of popular culture, but also, that sense of hopelessness for young people. There were no jobs to be had, people were on the dole, there was nothing else on offer. That idea of going out and being kicked in the head for the colour of your skin ... I grew up in a shop. My mum and dad had a shop. That sense of violence was always there."

Chadha, whose TV series Beecham House has just concluded on ITV, has long been keen to remind us that the Asian story is also a British story. "We're here because in 1600 Elizabeth I [of England] gave a document to the East India company. 'Go to India and take what you want, fleece it under the name of trade.' That's why we're here, frankly."

Blinded By the Light inevitably looks at issues or race and identity. (As Chadha says about herself, “I’m as English as I am Asian.”) Still, it is, at heart, a musical comedy. The director feels it is her most accomplished film, so far. It also manages, despite its darker corners, to find some hope.

"I sometimes get criticised because I'm not cynical. I'm political, but I'm not cynical and that's a big difference and I really wanted to make the point about human empathy in this film. I really did want to point out as [the murdered Labour MP] Jo Cox said, there's more that unites us than separates us. That's really what this film is saying."

And in doing so, the film might end up exporting Springsteen's message back to the USA.

"We inadvertently ended up making a feel-good film for America about a 16-year-old kid from Luton," Chadha agrees.

For Manzoor, he's just thrilled that his story now has the chance to prove that it is universal. That the distance from Luton to Nebraska is no further than a Springsteen lyric. The film's success at Sundance earlier this year might suggest as much.

"For me one of the most beautiful things is I've been reading reviews and people have said that there might now be 16-year-old kids who feel as strange or alienated who find something in this film in the way that I found Bruce. And that feels unspeakably cool.”

Blinded By the Light is on general release on Friday