Rami Malek Monday won an Oscar for best actor for his performance as the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
The movie traces the journey of the singer’s life from when he joined the British rock band to the Queen’s Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, billed as one of the greatest rock performances, in front of one of the biggest audiences at that time. It also looks at Freddie’s relationship with his bandmates and how the landmark song “Bohemian Rhapsody” came about.
While the movie opened to mixed responses, Rami Malek’s performance as the eccentric singer got people talking. Ever since the first look of his character came out, the striking visual resemblance between Malek and Freddie made noise. While the film does not shy away from talking about Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and his AIDS diagnosis, it does not dwell much on his Indian roots.
Born in British colony Zanzibar to a Parsi family from India, Freddie spent most of his childhood in Mumbai. Named Farrok Bulsara at his birth, his parents were devout Parsis with roots in the Gujarati town of Bulsar from which they derived their family name. His grandparents are also believed to be ancestors of Bulsara.
He studied at a school in Panchgani in Maharashtra and it is here that his connection with music first began. He started playing the piano and by the age of 12 had formed a rock band in his school.
It was here that he changed his name from Farrokh to Freddie. The family moved back to Zanzibar when he turned 17 and later to England in 1964.
Talking about his character, Rami Malek had said, “It is such a pleasure that the film will play in India. I think about Freddie’s time in India, especially what it would have been like for him to spend so many of his reformative years there. I think the film will speak very deeply to the people of India and everyone else for that matter, but especially to Indians.”