This week was the 56th birth anniversary of Michael Jackson who, even in death, has the power to make fans and plastic surgeons weep with joy. Even if you haven’t heard his music in a while, all it takes is one Youtube search for the foot-tapping to begin. Twenty seconds into the first result, the humming starts and by the end of it, you’re pelvic-thrusting all over the room even though you have a column deadline but you’re humping the air like you just don’t care aaaaaaand now you have a hernia.
I was never much of a dancer, but if there’s one person that made me try, it was the man that my mother once described as “Who’s that girl in the baniyan?” It was his music that made it okay for ten-year-old me to look like an idiot on the dance floor floor – a responsibility that has since been taken over by Mr. Whisky. In fact, Thriller was the first cassette I ever bought and it was one of the most fun things I’d ever heard, even thought it featured a boring duet titled ‘The Girl Is Mine’ with some random guy called Paul McCartney.
(NOTE TO YOUNG READERS: In case you’re wondering, a cassette was kinda like a malnourished iPod.)
The fandom was amplified many times over the by the fact that I was there during Michael Jackson’s first and only India concert. When I say ‘there’, I mean ‘in the same city with no chance of attending the show’ because if I’d asked to go, my parents would’ve just laughed and then sold me off to pay for the tickets, which were priced at Rs. AUKAAT MEIN REH, YOU ARE A MIDDLE-CLASS PERSON IN THE ‘90s only.
But it felt like I was at Michael’s side every step of the way, because every news outlet went into overdrive. Seriously, this is what the headlines looked like:
MICHAEL JACKSON MOONWALKS INTO MUMBAI AIRPORT! SIX FANS DIE OF EXCITEMENT!
MICHAEL JACKSON CLEARS CUSTOMS! CUSTOMS OFFICER MAKES THAT HEART SIGN WITH HIS HANDS!
MICHAEL JACKSON STOPS TO PLAY WITH KIDS IN DHARAVI! EVERYONE ACTS COOL EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE ALL THINKING ABOUT THOSE ALLEGATIONS.
MICHAEL JACKSON USES THE TOILET AT THE THACKERAY RESIDENCE! NOT GONNA MAKE A JOKE ABOUT IT BECAUSE I LIKE MY LIFE.
The hysteria was understandable because a) he was literally the biggest superstar to have enjoyed Bombay’s potholes and b) this was a time when not too many international artistes came here, as opposed to today, where if you throw a rock, it’d probably hit some EDM star on the head, distracting him from hitting ‘Play’ on his laptop.
Michael Jackson left behind a very important legacy in India, i.e. he became the default western look for everybody on Boogie Woogie. All of those acts went down great with the judges, especially Ravi Behl who described everything as “Boo!” I don’t think his contract allowed him to say anything else. Basically, Ravi Behl was the Hodor of Boogie Woogie.
It’s also weird that for all our MJ lovin’, we were quite clueless about his lyrics. For example, this is how most Indian people sang his songs:
Zdhsjdhsdiushsd dfushdh sdjsdj
ALL I WANT TO SAY IS THAT
THEY DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT US!
Thankfully, Anu Malik came to our rescue like a musical Robin Hood, and while keeping the beat intact, replaced those lyrics with the much more comprehensible NEELA DUPATTA PEELA SUIT. I’m sure that’s what really killed Michael Jackson.
He still lives on though, in people like Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars and also Chiranjeevi, whose Telugu rip-off of the Thriller video may have fueled the demand for a separate state. But most importantly, Michael Jackson lives on in every kid who is still discovering his moves, and in every adult who is currently grabbing his crotch while also typing this.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 31st Aug 2014.)