Nfld. & Labrador

Freddie Mercury's boyhood friend — a St. John's judge — praises portrayal in new Hollywood biopic

Vikas Khaladkar is impressed by Bohemian Rhapsody, the Hollywood version of his old pal Freddie Mercury.

Vikas Khaladkar went to boarding school with Mercury in India

A Newfoundland judge is impressed by Rami Malek's portrayal of his boyhood peer Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. (20th Century Fox)

Vikas Khaladkar was in the fourth grade when he looked up to a charismatic eighth-grader named Farrokh Bulsara, better known around campus as Freddie.

They were schoolmates at St. Peter's Boys School in Western India.

More than 50 years later, Khaladkar — a justice of the Supreme Court in St. John's — sat in a movie theatre and watched Bohemian Rhapsody, the cinematic portrayal of his old friend, Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury.

Vikas Khaladkar, a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court justice, attended boarding school with Mercury.

"I thought it was very good," Khaladkar said. "I think the actor [Rami Malek], he got right into it. I thought it was a pretty decent portrayal of Freddie Mercury."

Defining characteristics were right on

While the movie took liberties with several parts of Mercury's life story, there was one aspect that made Khaladkar think back to the boy he knew from school.

"You couldn't miss his teeth, right?" he laughed. "He had these buck teeth that made him really unique. And he never did anything to them. As he grew up, I suppose he grew into them a little bit. But they were bigger when he was smaller. But it was a distinguishing characteristic for sure."

You sort of look at it and remark to yourself how many paths we've all taken.- Vikas Khaladkar- Vikas Khaladkar

Khaladkar remembers the Queen singer for his musicality and his willingness to share it. He lived on the second floor of the dormitory, overlooking the street. Khaladkar said Mercury would serenade girls as they passed by.

"He would sing to them from up there and they loved it," he said. "Freddie used to do that a lot."

The movie focuses heavily on Mercury's relationship with his partner, Mary, through his rise to stardom and eventually coming out in private.

Different paths from St. Peter's

It also touches on his heritage — he was born in Zanzibar, which later amalgamated with Khaladkar's home region of Tanganyika, now known as Tanzania. They were two boys from the same region, thousands of kilometres from home.

Most of his memories about Mercury come from them sharing the same music teacher for a year.

"She used to get a fresh switch for each day's lessons and if you made mistakes when you were doing your piano, she'd hit you on the knuckles with a stick," he said. "Maybe Freddie had more facility than I did."

Mercury is the subject of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Remi Malek. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Mercury played in a band during his time at the school, alongside Victory Rana, a Tibetan royal who would later become the commander in charge of the United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Cyprus in 1999.

While watching Bohemian Rhapsody, Khaladkar was struck by the different routes their lives took after they left St. Peter's.

"You sort of look at it and remark to yourself how many paths we've all taken and come down, whether it's being in charge of the forces at Cyprus or ending up here in Newfoundland. It's amazing that we got to where we got to."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show