Michael Jackson birth anniversary: King of Pop's India connect...
Photo: Twitter

Much before Wacko Jacko made it to India for the HIStory concert, its people had already heard his music, dancing and singing. From small villages, to rickshawallahs to fans, music lovers and top celebrities, MJ was famous. Jackson represented so much that was great about the American story, his story. In a land littered with brutal racists, religious bigotry, misogyny and caste chauvinism, Indians loved this black man as one of their own. For his Indian fans, MJ’s blackness was almost an afterthought, for it was more of his music and dancing.

It’s no wonder then that in the song Black or White, a female dancer dressed in red and gold, is matching steps with Jackson to Odissi dance moves. The 21 seconds clip was shot on a Los Angeles expressway with the duo dancing with stunt drivers whizzing past them through the foreground and background.

India was seen once again during the final verse of the song, where Jackson is on a large sculpted torch, which the camera pans out to reveal as New York’s Statue of Liberty. Jackson is seen singing on Lady Liberty's torch surrounded by other famous world structures, one of them being the Taj Mahal. This was one of Jackson’s most controversial songs against racism, something he had never done before. We could add that MJ was always ahead of his time and delivered a perfect message, as seen from the recent George Floyd killing in the US this year.

When it comes to making biopics or movies inspired by legends, then nothing can beat Bollywood. It is for this reason that director Remo D'Souza’s (who is a huge fan of MJ) film ‘ABCD: Any Body Can Dance’ (2013) was inspired by Michael Jackson. Choreographer-actor-director Prabhu Deva has often been pegged as the Indian Michael Jackson and being part of the film, it was obvious that he would pay tribute to the King of Pop by doing MJ’s signature moves in a song in the film, in his own style.

Prabhu Deva strikes a pose with Michael Jackson statue
Prabhu Deva strikes a pose with Michael Jackson statue
Photo: PTI

In 2016, Jackson’s die-hard fan Chandrasekaran of RC Golden Granites, Chennai made MJ ‘live’ on at a Chennai University. A rare, not 100 percent look-alike, 10-foot statue cut from a single black stone was dedicated to Michael Jackson. The Gary, Indiana, US born star was forever frozen to MJ’s hit song Beat It. The statue weighing 3.5 tonnes was made by six sculptors who took 45 days to chisel the singer whose birthday is celebrated today. The statue was inaugurated by (who else?) Prabhu Deva.

India got a first-hand experience in witnessing the God himself take to stage and mystify his fans, with seemingly complicated dance moves, defying the laws of physics, when MJ visited India in October/November 1996. The ads beckoned to come and be a part of ‘HIStory’. Even the nearby ‘paanwala’ knew that some ‘Michael Jaikishan' was coming to perform in Mumbai.

Birthplace of Michael Jackson in Gary, Indiana, US
Birthplace of Michael Jackson in Gary, Indiana, US
Photo by Verus Ferreira

On his arrival, while on his way from the airport to his hotel, he visited the late Bal Thackeray, Founder and Chief of the Shiv Sena at his residence. His concert on November 1, 1996, at the Andheri Sports complex was incredible. I was one of the lucky few to lay my hands on a ticket and attend the concert, which even today I regard as one of the best concerts ever seen in India. Throughout the concert, Michael showed his supreme love for India when he reiterated, ‘I love you India’ and ‘Sabse Pyara Hindustan’. When Michael left the Oberoi Hotel, the staff found a pillowcase signed by him.

Bet you didn’t know that our very own Dil Se man AR Rehman worked with MJ on a single called Ekam Satyam in 2001. The song is a duet sung by the maestro and is composed by Rehman. The track is part Sanskrit and part English. Rehman has rendered the Sanskrit portion while Jackson handles the English part.

MJ has inspired legions of musicians and dancers in India, with several imitating his trademark moves, the pelvic thrust, the sideways glide, and the iconic moonwalk. In fact, Ranjeet Singh (a traffic cop from Indore and a die-hard MJ fan) uses moon walking to direct traffic. That’s the power MJ had over anyone who saw him dancing.

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