The Bollywood music fraternity and ardent music and rhythm lovers were shocked and saddened to hear that former violinist-turned-ace drummer-composer-music-programmer, rhythm-guru and cameo-actor Franco Vaz (of ‘Andhadhun’ fame) suddenly passed away on February 7th. The versatile Franco was known for playing drums for a large number of chartbusting songs composed by R D Burman for films like ‘Rocky’ Saagar’, ‘Shalimar’, ‘Mahaan’ ‘Sanam Teri Kasam’. Besides RDB, Franco also played for many more top film composers right from C. Ramchandra and O P Nayyar to Kalyanji-Anandji and Anand-Milind to more recently with Amit Trivedi. For me, personally, it was a huge shock as I knew the friendly Franco-Sir since over past 30 plus years, initially as a film and music journalist. Steadily we became good friends and we even both attended together many R D Burman memorial live concerts as ‘guests-of-honour’. Often, i used to sit near Franco during RDB's recording takes and watch his live rhythmic artistry at FilmCenter in Mumbai
The hugely-talented Franco Vaz also played regularly for his close buddy-friend Bollywood composer Uttam Singh for several movies like the Filmfare Award winning ‘Dil Toh Paagal Hai, Pinjar, Dushman, and even musical mega-hit Gadar (2001). Speaking exclusively to me, Uttam Singh says., “It was with shocked disbelief that I reacted to the sad news that Franco was no more. For me Franco had to be playing with me in almost all my movies for which I composed. Besides playing drums with sticks also brilliantly played the tumba-drums solo intricate rhythm beats with his fingers and palms in ‘Dil Toh Paagal Hai, for the background music portion which Madhuri Dixit dances gracefully on screen. With Franco Vaz suddenly passing away, I have lost my close dear friend of 35 years and a great innovative rhythm-musician. But I am sure he will live on with such amazing variety of catchy rhythms that he played for hundreds of evergreen film-songs,” says an emotionally upset Uttam Singh.
Not content with only playing at recordings and live concerts, Franco shared his vast experience and expertise with aspiring students and budding musicians and trained them how to appreciate world music as well as our own Bollywood music. So, in 2014, Franco founded “Trakadoom Institute of Drums and Percussion” where he and his team taught the young students.
The slick crime-thriller ‘Andhadhun’ (2018) directed by Sriram Raghavan has Franco Vaz playing ‘himself’, but as Radhika Apte’s screen-father. That too as the owner of an elite resto-bar also called ‘Franco’s’. As all legendary composer R D Burman hard-core fans are aware, Franco has played drums and percussion for hundreds of chartbusting RDB recording ‘takes’ right from ‘Kasme Vaade’ (1978). Quirky coincidence as it may appear, Franco’s ‘Boss’ RDB had also ‘acted’ in comic cameos in a couple of Hindi movies like ‘Bhoot Bangla’ and ‘Pyar Ka Mausam’ . Speaking to me in the past, Franco had said, “Frankly speaking I was not at all exciting for getting onto the acting groove, because I know I am ‘not’ cut out for it. But it was the ‘Andhadhun’ genius director Sriram Raghavan who coaxed and convinced me that he had ‘me’ in mind all along in the script and that I just had to be ‘myself’ during the shooting takes. Taking that cue, I also played ad-lib racy rhythmic beats with the Calypso tadka on the ‘bar-trays’ during my scenes. Actually as a senior musician, I have been playing music for Sriram right from his initial phase movie ‘Johnny Gaddar’ upto ‘Andhadhun’. When people also call me a smart rhythmic ‘actor’ I feel a bit odd, but laugh it off with modesty, “ Franco had said.
May his soul Rest In Eternal Peace and may God give moral strength to all his Family Members to cope with the sudden tragic loss. We will miss you Franco-Sir !
In showbiz and the music industry, the traditional mantra is 'The Show Must Go On', It is heartening to note that Franco's super-talented star-drummer son Joshua Vaz will take the rhythm-legacy forward. We also wish Joshua Vaz all the very best of success.
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