#VinitasPune: The ‘God Of Rock’ Was Our Neighbourhood School Boy!

Freddie Mercury
Image: Refinery29

30 years after the death of legendary rock singer Freddie Mercury (Farokkh Balsara) who studied in St Peter’s School, Panchgani, not only is he still the most sought after rock star across the globe, beating Elvis Priestly in popularity, but has a Hollywood movie based on that just won the Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Best Actor- Golden Globe 2019 Award.

Today, I devote my column to nostalgia and ask ourselves whether we actually ignored Freddie Mercury’s greatness…

When I visited St. Peter’s School, Panchgani last year, Principal Wilfred Noronha, pointing out to a photograph said with pride that Freddie Mercury (then known by his original name, Farokkh Balsara) studied here.

The evergreen numbers, ‘We are the champions,’ ‘I will, I will rock you’, I want to break free’ resonated in my mind.

His `Bohemian Rhapsody’ stamped as the ultimate number, had scientists research on his voice modulations. Yet, I didn’t know the depth of his international popularity that is immortal and growing by the day including the Queen Fan Clubs (`Queen’ was the name of the band he played for) that are spread across UK, Europe USA and Japan, even 30 years after his death.

Incidentally, International travel agencies organise `Queen’ tours with Panchgani as one of the must see destinations!

So, last week, when `Bohemian Rhapsody’ (a movie based on Freddie’s life and music) won the best motion picture in the Drama category and Rami Malek (who played the role of Freddie Mercury) won the Golden Globe award for the Best actor, I was overwhelmed.

Actor Malek stated at the glittering function that, “Thank you to Fredde Mercury for giving me the joy of a lifetime. I love you, you beautiful man. This is for and because of you, gorgeous.’’

I just had to write about his legendary status and the fact that a school boy of our region went on to be immortalised, yet his greatness is not celebrated with the same spirit right here.

Farrokh Bulsara
Freddie Mercury born as Farrokh Bulsara. Image: Twitter

Did you know that young Farokkh Balsara in his avatar as Freddie Mercury has surpassed Elvis Priestly in his popularity even today? As per the official website www.queenworld.com, “In September 2010 (coincidentally, around Freddie’s 64th birthday) a poll carried out among rock fans saw him named the Greatest Rock Legend Of All Time, beating Elvis Presley to claim the title, and ahead of David Bowie, Jon Bon Jovi, Jimi Hendrix and Ozzy Osbourne.

A spokesman for OnePoll.com which conducted the poll said: “Freddie Mercury had it all, the voice, the image, the stage presence, everything. “He combined his ear for music with an ability to deliver to stadium audiences and as such millions were devastated when HIV killed him in 1991. His legend will live on forever.” 

Did you know that travel agencies across Europe conduct `Queen Tours’ and one of the places of visit is Panchgani’s St. Peter’s School? Check out this, which I have culled out from Queen’s Club, Germany website: `Freddie Mercury Indian School – St.Peter’s tours for fans -Freddie Mercury’s early school years – 1954(Grade1) to 1962(Grade9) – were spent at St.Peter’s School, a 107 years old boarding school in Panchgani,240 kilometres from Bombay(Mumbai) in the State of Maharastra,India.  St.Peter’s School(India),Blue Flame(Canada),Marlin Travel,Downtown Vancouver(Canada) and Mercury Travels(India) invite Freddie Mercury fans to explore his school first hand, through a variety of exciting  tour packages. Part proceeds of all tours will be donated to The Mercury Phoenix Trust, to help them in their mission of fighting AIDS worldwide.’’

Did you know that he escorted Lady Diana, the world’s most glamorous princess, to a Gay Club by disguising her? And that -he had a few renditions with Michael Jackson but the partnership was not successful?

Did you know that Freddie’s resting place is still a mystery and fans are on a hunt for the same till today? Here is an excerpt from www.rollingstones.com, about what happened to his ashes kept in the urn until 2012, though he died in 1991:

‘When Mercury succumbed to AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia on November 24th, 1991, his body was cremated at Kensal Green cemetery in West London. His ashes were kept in an urn in Austin’s bedroom (his girlfriend) for two years before she quietly took his remains to their final resting place.

“I didn’t want anyone to suspect that I was doing anything other than what I would normally do. I said I was going for a facial. I had to be convincing. It was very hard to find the moment,” she told The Daily Mail in 2013.

“I just sneaked out of the house with the urn. It had to be like a normal day so the staff wouldn’t suspect anything – because staff gossip. They just cannot resist it. But nobody will ever know where he is buried because that was his wish.”

Apparently even Mercury’s parents have been kept in the dark about the location, but that hasn’t stopped fans from trying to find the place to pay their respects.

Some have speculated that he’s in his native Zanzibar, while others believe him to be beneath a cherry tree in the garden of his mansion. It seemed like the mystery was solved in 2013, when a plinth bearing Mercury’s birth name and birth date was discovered at Kensal Green. “In Loving Memory of Farrokh Bulsara, 5 Sept. 1946 – 24 Nov. 1991,” it read, “Pour Etre Toujours Pres De Toi Avec Tout Mon Amour – M.” The French translates to “Always to Be Close to You With All My Love,” and many speculate that the “M” in question is for Mary Austin. 

`Austin herself denies the theory. “Freddie is definitely not in that cemetery.” The plaque has since been removed. At present, his final resting place remains unknown.

Did you know that our Panchgani boy still gets rave reviews and has die-hard fans of all ages, on the youtube? Check out some of these which have been posted as recently as 2018-2019.`:

Jay Rule
2 months ago -The most amazing voice I’ve ever heard from a Rock & Roll lead singer. Name somebody better, I dare you.’
Maja Dudek
1 week ago -This moment when you are dead from almost 30 yrs and still have millions of fans around the world… you know that you’re true legend.

Luma Alessandra1 month ago -In this world, we’ll never, NEVER have someone like Freddie Mercury. People can try to sing and make his movements like him, but HE’S THE ONLY ONE!!!!!! ? Who again with me??????

Wide Open6511 months ago– Four octave range, master of sub harmonic vibrato, could slide through harmonic ranges flawlessly, there will never be another Freddie!

Proud Marine1 year ago -I love “QUEEN”. 74 years old and I love to blast it.

Joie Magtibay1 month ago -I just cried. Why was i born too late. Ugh. This is pure talent!!!

LifeisGreat2 months ago -‘m crying because i never got the chance to see Freddie live on stage :'(

Teresa S9 months ago

Im not sure I can say I love another artist more!

And on his birthday (four months back), a fan posts on youtube: 

estefela54 months ago: “Will always love you and miss you my dear ❤ the best artist, singer, composer, frontman and voice in the entire universe, happy birthday Freddie. Miss you so much? hope you are taking care of yourself wherever you are???’’

John Maguire
4 months ago: Went to a green day concert – before they came on stage Bohemian Rhapsody was being played – 50000 people started to sing it word by word; .when that happens without Queen (Freddie’s band) being there and even more amazing most of the crowd present was not even born when the song was released. That’s when you have the right to call yourself a legend.’’

Need I say more? Yet, as a parting thought – I wonder whether we have ignored this great legend that hailed from Western India and where his remembrance is just a dot at St Peter’s School, Panchgani.

Is it the quintessential case of gharki murgi dal barabar (a chicken bred in the house is equal to the humble dal). 


#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.

Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

Passion for the written word that comes alive, not only to tell a story, but to speak out loud about all that's good, bad and the ugly in society...

That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.

Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,
Vinita Deshmukh