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A Tribute to Frank Fernand (May 3, 1919 - April 1, 2007)

Maker of Memorable Movies 'Amchem Noxib' and 'Nirmonn'

by Richie Lasrado
Resident Editor

(With life-sketch inputs from Isidore Dantes)

April 3, 2007

For Konkani music-lovers, the songs "Mogan asunk borem, jivit sukhi khorem", "Bextem-ch ragan dhanvun kitea vetai bavun", "Tum nachloi punn tuka", "Kalliz khuxen bhorlem amchem", "Claudia", "Dhol mhojea bai, nid mhojea bai", "Burge zaun zantte sogllech thontte nach atanche, ram-pam-pom", "Aurak vetai kuraddi gheun khandari",  and others from the movies "Amchem Noxib" and "Nirmonn" are still evergreen hits, even after forty years have elapsed. These songs were written and recorded decades before the music world was inundated with gizmos like synthesizers, mixers, multitrack recording systems, track music and what have you. That explains the simplicity and timeless, ever-fresh tenor of these songs.

The man behind them was Frank Fernandes (87), fondly known as Frank Fernand, who passed away in Mumbai on April 1, 2007. The movies, when they were released, created a sensation. Fernand only produced and wrote music for these movies, which were directed by A Salam. "Nirmonn" was later remade into Hindi under the title of "Taqdeer".

This remake did not do so well at the box office, in spite of a memorable performace by Bharat Bhushan in the lead opposite Shalini (who had also done the lead role in the Konkani original) and lilting songs created by Laxmikant Pyarelal. "Jab jab bahar aayi, aur phool muskuraye, mhuje tum yaad aaye" ( which represented "Claudia" ), "Aayiye bahar ko hum baant len, zindagi mein pyaar ko hum baant len", "Saat samundar paar se, gudiyon ki bazar se, acchi si gudiya lana, gudiya chahe na lana, papa jaldi aa jaana" - soul-stirring lyrics, combined with mellifluous music.

Frank Fernandes was born on May 3, 1919 in Curchorem, Goa. He had his initial training in music from Diego Rodrigues and mastered violin and trumpet. In 1936, he  moved to Bombay - now Mumbai. He began playing music under well-known band-leader George Theodore at Green's Hotel and Taj Mahal Hotel. In 1942, he left Mumbai for Mussorie to play with Rudy Cotton's band and blossomed into a fine jazz musician. He lived and played in Delhi for a while the same year.

India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's biography 'Discovery of India' is said to have influenced him deeply, making him totally change his outlook. With a full sense of patriotism, he considered August 15 every year as the greatest event of the year. He was already back in Mumbai in 1946, playing with Mickey Correia and his band. A turning point in his career and life came in 1948 when he joined the celebrated Hindi music director-duo Shankar Jaikishan. Raj Kapoor's 'Barsat' was his major assignment under the duo's baton. Later he worked under top-level music directors and had close association with Anil Biswas, Kishore Kumar, Roshan, C Ramachandra and others.

Still pics from the 1963 black and white movie 'Amchem Noxib'

His last assignment in the Hindi film industry was as the first assistant of Kalyanji Anandji, another popular music director duo. His deep love for his mother-tongue Konkani motivated him to produce "Amchem Noxib" under his banner "Frank Films" with C Alvares and Anthony Mendes in main roles. As said already, the name "Amchem Noxib" immediately brings to mind the memorable songs from the movie. But he reportedly had regretted that he did not get enough response for certain classes of the society. Incidentally, when many believe that "Amchem Noxib" was the first Konkani movie to hit the screen, records tell us that there was another called "Mogacho Anvddo" made way back in 1950.

He came out with his second movie "Nirmonn" (Destiny), which won him a Certificate of Merit, received at the hands of then prime minister, the late Indira Gandhi.

It had a strong storyline, with C Alvares, Shalini, Anthony D'Sa and Jacinto Vaz in the main cast. The Hindi version 'Taqdeer' also was directed by A Salam.

Frank also provided the musical score for the Konkani movie 'Mhoji Ghorkarn' directed by A Salam. Encouraged by the success of two Konkani movies, he made a Hindi movie "Priya" in 1965. It had Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja in the lead, with some catchy songs composed by Kalyanji Anandji. (The title song 'She's very pretty; she's very pretty; She's very very, very very pretty; Pretty pretty Priya' may be ringing in many music-lovers' ears even now.) But this movie bombed at the box office.

Soon came out with his second Hindi venture "Ahat", said to have been inspired by "Wait until Dark", which was not released because the distributor had some problems with the law.

Frank Fernand has set to music some memorable lyrics by noted poets, most remembered of them all being "Fulam Zai" and "Sobit Amchem Goem" by Dr Manohar Sardesai, for which he won the Bombay Journal Award.

He had also staged a tiatr entitled 'Bekar Patrao' in the 1980s with a ten-piece orchestra introduced for the first time. He pioneered as classical Jazz player and Trumpet Concerto by Handel under music maestro Victor Paranjoti. In 1958, he organized a concert wherein he played the Evolution of Music, Jazz, starting with Negro Spirituals, Dixie Land Jazz, followed by New Orleans Jazz, Sound of America commercial music, Symphony Jazz and Ravi Shankar's Caravan.

His close sources said he suffered from Parkinson's Disease and his music was muted on April 1, 2007. He had a quiet funeral in Dadar on April 2.  He is survived by wife Maggie, daughters Elfin, Doris and Larissa, and son Max.

Frank is no more, but he lives in thousands of hearts the world over.

May he rest in eternal peace.

Also read:

Choice interviews by Richie Lasrado

Other selections:

Richie Lasrado's Mangalore Masala - Archives

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