Saturday June 27, 2009

Nothing to Beat It!

Posted by Karthik

(Note: This appeared in today’s Bangalore Mirror, as my tribute to MJ)

It was back in the ’80s. I was in school, in Coimbatore – a B-town and far from the metro-style trappings. We had a new kid in school, who had moved in with his parents from Dubai. One day, he invited a few friends – including me – to his house. There was a huge TV – even back then – and it was playing music videos, through a VCR. He played us a couple of Michael Jackson videos and I saw them for the first time in my life. Before that day, the only music videos I had seen included snippets on Doordarshan’s Prannoy Roy show, The World This Week or tacky videos from a weird pop music show late in the nights, again, on Doordarshan.

It was only when music channels came to India that I saw much more of music videos. So, in a way, Jackson to me, is more of an entertainer, than just a musician. His performance, be it in videos or stage shows or just in songs embodies a lot more than music and that is perhaps what makes him so much more special.

While I’ve had a far more intimate experience growing up to Wham and George Michael, Jackson’s music was always the benchmark. Even though I realised it on my own, the true epiphany came from my 50 plus-year-old uncle, who once commented very positively about the nuances in Jackson’s music. If a musician can impress someone as world-weary as a 50 plus year old, that is truly something, because the rest of the younger lot is still eating out of its hands listening to his music!

Given Jackson’s appeal and renewed interest right now, it is probably the most appropriate time to finally release the track he performed with another person, who is red hot currently – A R Rahman! Yes, releasing Ekam Satyam, the track that Rahman composed along with Michael Jackson, and was choreographed by Prabhu Deva for a German stage show by the King of Pop, would be the right tribute to the pop icon. Isn’t it interesting that the song is partly in Sanskrit, which despite the onslaught of so many languages over the years, has still survived. I have no doubt that kids will discover and appreciate Jackson’s music long after his passing away.

Jackson’s popularity was so overarching that Indian composers were quite wary of plagiarising his music. There were some genuine flashes of intelligent inspirations though. Telugu/ Tamil composer Keeravani (Maragadhamani in Tamil) had a beautiful, seeped-in-Indian song in K Balachander’s Azhagan – Thathithom. In a shocking twist, the song suddenly changes track towards the end, where actress Madhubala (of Roja fame) had had enough of the pussy-footing to attract the film’s hero, Mammootty, and launches into a snazzy western tune in Tamil lyrics. It was set to the tune of Jackson’s Liberian Girl, and guess what! It fit in beautifully within the song’s structure, composed in the Carnatic raag, Dharmavathi. Compared to this, Hindi cinema has had largely tacky musical inspirations from Jackson – forget the inspiration for his dance moves and music video concepts. Anu Malik’s Hamesha track, Neela Dupatta with shades of Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us is one such example. It could just be that Indian composers were scared to lift Jackson’s songs for the simple reason that the originals were a rage by themselves!



  • Same , same , same !! year 1990 when i saw his videos in VCP . was in awe .. and the Jam video on which i practiced dance in college .. almost 100 times i saw that !! He is legend !!

    ( I giess raaja’s thathom thalangu was raajish way of jackson)

  • nakhrekartekarte

    I love the Neela Dupatta song! The tune is original I think, I heard it in an older anu song, but I actually love the blending of the TDRCAU beats with the song! I think it was perfect. There was also another song that was inspired by the same song, it had SRK with mullety hair! Hosh mein koi josh mein dekhne wala??? which was more of a inspiration based on the tune.

    Btw I wouldn’t say he was too good to copy, most of the songs from a Bappi Lahari film, Rock Dancer, was full of lifts of MJ songs! like not just inspirations, but full on plagirizing!

    totally plagirized from MJ’S Jam! ( music is completely lifted off Billie Jean!! but the tune is original
    I think? the mukhda does seem to have shades of it i think

    and there’s another one from Pyar Ka Rog! I think it’s a lift of MJ’s Black or White

  • johnson_2412

    i often find harris jayaraj getting inspired from mj’s bass lines, like thers a telugu song oh his called PAATAKU PRANAM from Vasu,.its almost a rip off from one of mj biggest hits,….and also manisharma used many of his “ideas”!!

  • dragun

    The opening of Metro Channel (from Tamil film Indhu, by Deva) is lifted from the opening of MJ’s Why You Wanna Trip on Me

    Athiradee from Sivaji (AR Rahman) has an interlude similar to Jam, and January Maadham from 7/G Rainbow Colony (Yuvan Shankar Raja) has some MJish beats and even his trademark “hee hee.” These aren’t really lifts per se.

    I was a huge MJ fan as a kid, and his music and dancing are still impressive. He was one of the greatest entertainers, if not THE greatest entertainer, of my generation. I grew up in the US, and when I took my cassette of Dangerous to India on a trip my cousins loved it and made a copy. I was surprised to find out that they were fans too. It was only later I realized how widespread his fame was. People all over the world idolized him. It was sad to see his physical and mental decline in the 90s, especially because he was such a genius. Perhaps he had some hope on the horizon with this series of concerts he was about to do, but I hope he now has the inner peace he never found when he was alive.

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