Veteran artist, music aficionado and a prominent personality among American Malayalees, Fred Cochin unlocks the treasure trove of memories centred around his hometown of Fort Kochi, life in the US and tryst with legends from various walks of life
While growing up, Frederick A Edward was an ardent fan of all things artistic and was so enamoured by his home town of Kochi. Although he now lives in the US, he is popularly known as Fred Cochin, something that keeps him rooted to his hometown. From his home in the US, he recalls all those memorable experiences he has had in Fort Kochi, while living with his parents, Eddy Master and Mary Eddie. “My home was a living theatre, where recurrent rehearsals of upcoming dramas at Fort Kochi, and later all over Kerala, used to happen. Most of the artistes who came to my house later became legends in life,” he says.
He starts naming them one by one, from artistes such as T S Muthayya, Manavalan Joseph, Moitheen Khan (KPAC), N Govindan Kutty, Bharat Award winner P J Antony, Bava (father of actor Risa Bava), KPAC Lalitha, Prem Navaz (brother of evergreen yesteryear hero Prem Nazir), K P Ummer and Mehboob, among many others. “Ramu Kariat, the renowned director of ‘Chemmeen’, the first South Indian movie to win the President’s Gold Medal for the Best Movie, was another disciple of my father, who lived with us in Fort Kochi during his earlier years. He went on to become the co-director of the film ‘Neelakuyil’ with P Bhaskaran.”
For Fred, growing up with these people, who later became legends in the creative field, paved the way to be a melting pot of experiences, and further shaped his sensibilities. In spite of that, he explains how his father did not want him to pursue a career or life, by walking on the same path as he did. “My father was not very happy about my inclination towards performing arts in the beginning for the simple reason that it was going to be a daunting experience, as most of the artists grappled with being paid less or being left without any money at all.”
He revisits those days in his 20s when his family was struck by financial trouble and the circumstances forced him to give up on his dreams as an artist to leave India to support his family. Surprisingly, life in the US was like a breath of fresh air, as it helped him pursue his dreams. “In no time, I was busy promoting plenty of young artistes from Kerala in North America and Europe. I was able to promote musicians and actors, through organisations such as Cochin Chorus, Cochin Arts & Communications and Cochin Natakavedi. I can proudly say that I have had the longest experience of being the national promoter of K J Yesudas, since 1978, in North America.”
Fred was also a close disciple of legendary music director Salil Chowdhury during his stay at Kolkata back then. He also proudly gives a peek into how spellbound he was while attending classes for drama as the disciple of Uthpal Dutt, who was considered the Guru of Theatre, at Rabindra Sadhan.
After settling down in the USA, the land of opportunity, he inspired umpteen number of people by being the entertainment co-ordinator for Federation of Malayalee Associations of Americas (FOMAA), and has conducted various live programmes for the same before he retired.
Fred is now leading a contended life reminiscing his glorious days and the pathways he has managed to tread. He is a doting dad to Abhilash and Kavitha and a loving husband to Lizy. For Kavya and Parvi, he is their loving grandpa. Being in their presence provides him that sense of contentment. “My grandchildren keep me motivated to be here in this world,” he says before signing off.