How do you exactly remember Michael Jackson? A pale faced ageing popstar with bad plastic surgery artifacts? His controversial child molestation charges cases settled out of court? Or his unnaturally feminine voice?
For a normal kid who grew up in the eighties, Michael Jackson was a part of growing up. MJ - the legend - was a larger-than-life icon. We spent hours trying to copy his moves and create that illusion of ‘Break Dance’, a style of dance that Michael defined and redefined continually. Some of us were pretty good. There was a Michael Jackson imitator in every school or college dancing competition. There were many who could manage a close imitation (Prabhu Deva for instance) but never truly ‘perfect’. To know what’s perfection, one had to rent out a copy of Michael Jackson’s videos. And then watch the jaw-dropping performance for the hundredth time.
Yes, MJ has had more than his share of controversies. The multi-millioniare King of Pop residing in the amusement-park like estate of Neverland Ranch was easy to be hated. Media loved to lampoon every excess of his. But when MJ stepped on stage, when the arc lights shone, something extraordinary happened. When he made his spectacular entry there were goosebumps on every person in the audience. When he moved, the laws of physics would not apply. When he sang, he could dive into pathos and immediately hit a howling yell with remarkable ease. He was in every sense of the term, a performer extraordinaire.
Two days back, in a small packed screening of perhaps a hundred people, I saw one of the most moving homage to this incredible artist. It was aptly called ‘This is It’. Rather than a boring documentary with interviews and flashbacks, the film directly took you to the auditions for MJ’s final tour of the same name. In the next few minutes, you are taken through the gruelling preparations Michael had for what could possibly have been a stage performance never experienced before.
To appreciate the genius of his performances, you need to look no further than the immense amount of improvisation and perfection in every performance of Michael. He doesn’t mime his old soundtracks. He doesn’t even sing to a recorded soundtrack. Everything which happens in an MJ’s show is being performed Live. Yes, today’s teen popstars who can barely mime their performances on stage surely have it easy, don’t they?
As we watch the rehearsals of several iconic hits like ‘Billy Jean’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Beat It’, you don’t feel for a minute that you are watching an ageing fifty year-old. He effortlessly performs his trademark moves that, despite millions of imitators (including the very talented and cherry-picked stage extras), only Michael could convincingly perform. When he sings, he doesn’t gasp for breath or lose his tempo. He, in fact, single-handedly resurrects his hit numbers performing frighteningly close to what how did when he was a teenager.
As you watch these songs, you cannot help wondering the immense capacity of MJ to entertain his audience. He can stir a range of human emotions be it Romance, Empathy, Frustration or Terror in the deepest possible way through his songs. His audience escape to a world that’s very uniquely Michael’s creation. A surreal world inhabited by gangsters, zombies, and panthers in locales varying from Egyptian deserts to lush tropical rain-forests.
Michael was not just an exceptional artist but an extraordinary human being. In the rehearsals, he treats every artist on crew with respect and humility. He has been credited with supporting more charities than any other artist - 39 charitable organizations - either with monetary donations through sponsorships of their projects or participation in their activities.
His songs broke all boundaries of culture or race. His songs like ‘Heal the World’ leaves a lump in one’s throat and stirs your heart everytime you hear them. For millions of fans, there will be more pop crooners or dazzling dancers, but there will be only one King of Pop. And he will be missed - Forever.
Yes…. This is IT!