Hungarian Rhapsody: A Musical treat

Film: Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live In Budapest ’86

Cast: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon & a cast of millions

Director: János Zsombolyai

 It is not clear (to your reviewer at least) why this movie couldn’t have been released on Sept 5, the birthday of globally-acclaimed rock star and lead singer-songwriter of the British rock band Queen, Freddie Mecury. And I do not know why Zanzibar-born Freddie (born as Farukh Balsara) turned his back on his Parsi roots and  India (where he went to boarding school and learnt piano) and pretended to be a European in England. Was, after all, domiciled in there in pleasant times, certainly more tolerant than the early 20th century which would not countenance coloured women as leading ladies (The mother of Bombay born Anglo Indian actress Merle Oberon was mistaken as her maid and Merle kept mum about her Indian bloodline).

But we’ll forgive Freddie who broke the hearts of his fans the world over when he died on November 24, 1991, at age 45. Your reviewer was,sorry, is  a fan. Freddie I did not love and adore like I do the Beatles and Elvis. His lifestyle which would ultimately be the cause of his untimely death, had nothing to do with my lack of ardour. But I like Freddie (and Queen but of course) for their music and his sheer talent. His range spanned four octaves!

Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live In Budapest ’86 is a restored and remixed concert film of a bravura performance at a massive concert of their mock operatic masterpiece, Bohemian Rhapsody. In Budapest on 27 July 1986. The title of the concert is a nod to the marvellous classical compositions of the Hungarian-born composer and pianist Franz Liszt. But the original name of the Queen super hit has the name “Bohemian” referencing the group of artists and musicians who lived a century ago or thereabouts, defying convention and standards.

The concert (Cinematography Elemér Ragályi) footage spotlights each band member’s talent and contribution to the concert. Freddie is riveting! From his tight-assed strutting around the stage in various costumes, including a sadra-like top, to his showmanship, (flags and the crown). Like the best of musicians, he has a wonderful rapport with the million(?) strong audience at the Nepstadion which was  treated to a battery of songs, classic line-up a few weeks after the more famous shows from the demolished old Wembley Stadium in London.

Freddie wrote the words of Bohemian Rhapsody, taking words from the Quran, the Bible and theatre. “Scaramouch”, for example, is a stock character that appears as a boastful coward.

In the film, the concert section is titled A Kind of Magic is preceded by a documentary titled a ‘A Magic Year’ in which Freddie, guitarist Brian May, bass player John Deacon, drummer Roger Taylor and keyboard player Spike hanging out in Budapest (Freddie jokingly asked if the government building was for sale, he is asked if he’d like to return to Budapest and he replies, “Well, I’ll tell you what. If I’m alive, I’ll come back.” I cried a bit then.

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