Typography

The global mourning ritual over the death of Michael Jackson continues. Dancers have been gathering to pull shapes en masse in celebration of the release of This Is It, a film edited from footage of Jackson preparing for the planned London concert series. Most of those tributes pale in comparison to the mass craze Jackson’s celluloid epitaph is causing in India. In the context of Indian entertainment culture Jackson’s videos are likened to The Beatles or the opening credits of Dallas as a defining image that heralded the age of global media culture.

Furthermore, Jackson was not just a popular icon, but a paragon to countless Indian entertainers. Stars, film directors, choreographers and musicians have cited him as a major influence of their work, but his imprint is particularly deep in the resplendent dance routines of Bollywood musicals. In some cases scenes from his videos have been transported to a desi setting almost frame for frame.

“Techniques that Jackson excelled in, such as street-locking and body-popping, even the moonwalk, have been mimicked and incorporated into a lot of Bollywood styles,” confirms dance instructor Sari Breilin from the Bolly Beat Dance School in Helsinki. “Choreographers like Remo d’Souza have studied Jackson’s videos. He was one of the judges of Dance India Dance (a popular TV talent contest). He’s had no formal dance education, but he learned on the streets and by watching music videos.”

Even the biggest Bollywood figures, including Shahrukh Khan and A.R. Rahman, have openly admitted their debt to Jackson. The Indian MJ fan club, however, suspects they’re just hopping on the bandwagon to cash in on Jackson’s demise. Unlike Mithun Chakrabornthy, known throughout the 1980s as the Disco King of Bollywood, who even named his son after Jackson.

Furthermore, Jackson was not just a popular icon, but a paragon to countless Indian entertainers. Stars, film directors, choreographers and musicians have cited him as a major influence of their work, but his imprint is particularly deep in the resplendent dance routines of Bollywood musicals. In some cases scenes from his videos have been transported to a desi setting almost frame for frame.

“Techniques that Jackson excelled in, such as street-locking and body-popping, even the moonwalk, have been mimicked and incorporated into a lot of Bollywood styles,” confirms dance instructor Sari Breilin from the Bolly Beat Dance School in Helsinki. “Choreographers like Remo d’Souza have studied Jackson’s videos. He was one of the judges of Dance India Dance (a popular TV talent contest). He’s had no formal dance education, but he learned on the streets and by watching music videos.”

Matti Koskinen

www.bollybeat.net