• Michael Jackson and his many Munna fans

    Aastha Atray BananMumbaiJul 23, 2017, 10:58 IST

    Borivli's FAM.O.U.S crew loves B-boying but still looks up to Michael Jackson for his unique style
    Borivli's FAM.O.U.S crew loves B-boying but still looks up to Michael Jackson for his unique style

    When he was taunted for "dancing like a girl", actor Tiger Shroff had this to say in a magazine interview: "The concept of femininity and masculinity is stereotyped. To criticise the way I dance is to criticise Michael Jackson." Shroff, who plays Munna in Munna Michael, has been open about his fascination for the legendary dancer. The film is about a crazy MJ fan from the streets. On May 16, Shroff posted a video on Instagram to mark the day Jackson first performed the moonwalk, hashtagging it #daytheearth-witnessedmagic.

    It's not just Shroff who remains obsessed with what Jackson gave to the world, even if it's been a decade since he died. Be it with his music, which we listen to as we write this piece, or his smooth moves, which no dancer has been able to top, Jackson continues to inspire. Mumbai, which was the only city where Jackson performed when he came to India in 1996, is still under its spell.

    Melvin Louis
    Melvin Louis

    Mumbai boy and well-known dancer Melvin Louis, whose Instagram dance videos show off his unique style, says that the ever since he heard of Jackson in the '90s — thanks to two elder brothers who were obsessed with the pop star — he read and researched everything about the King of Pop. "There were very few people who were all-in-one like him. And that finesse!" he sighs. But, what really caught Louis's attention is the detail that went into every dancing project that Jackson took on. "It was about taking what exists to another level. He aimed for perfection. Look at the videos. He was always pushing himself to go beyond."

    Melvin Louis
    Melvin Louis

    In the 2009 documentary-style movie on Jackson, This Is It, a scene shows his group of back-up dancers standing around, cheering Michael as he goes from one move to another. Them wide eyed and gaping, he in the groove, never missing a step, until he stops and says in his iconic sugar voice, "You should have told me to stop."

    Noel Athayde, 28, once part of Ashley Lobo-led The Danceworx, and now a freelance professional dancer, said it took him a whole day to get the moonwalk right. "But, my all-time favourite is watching MJ dance under the spotlight to Billie Jean in Budapest in 1992," he says. For the soft-spoken Athayde, what Jackson taught him to transform into a beast on stage. "I wanted to be like him in that way — calm off stage and then someone else entirely on stage."

    Noel Athayde
    Noel Athayde

    Jaison Mathew, 36, assistant artistic director at Danceworx, Mumbai, agrees. "In 1983, when he danced the moonwalk at a live performance of Billie Jean, he created what we call the Jackson style. See a boy in a hat with a white glove, and you know what's going to happen! He didn't just dance. He created productions. What inspires dancers is his maturity and his dedication. In one scene in This Is It, director Kenny Ortega asks him, 'But Michael, if you are facing the audience, how will you know when the dancers are on stage?' He replied, 'I will sense them'."

    Jaison Mathew
    Jaison Mathew

    In 2008, with the release of Step Up 2: The Streets, which put focus on the dance "crew", the world of dance changed forever. Forms such as locking, popping, b-boying, all underground forms until then, became mainstream. Crews around Mumbai, who got ample opportunity to showcase themselves in mushrooming TV reality shows, were all experts at these forms. But, even at a time when the dance world evolves every day, crews swear by Michael Jackson.

    Indrajit Kumavat in a Michael Jackson video FAM.O.U.S made
    Indrajit Kumavat in a Michael Jackson video FAM.O.U.S made

    Abhishek Deepak Anita Das, 27, leader of the popular FAM.O.U.S crew from Borivli, says his father took a loan in 1996 so that the family could attend the MJ concert. "MJ was sent to Earth to do this. I have read interviews where his musicians talk about how he knew all the chords, all the tempos by heart. He was the same way about dance." Das wanted a Michael Jackson impersonator in his crew and chanced upon Indrajit Kumavat at Thakur College, Kandivli. "He is currently with Cirque du Soleil. But he is the best impersonator and I've got him." Eighteen-year-old Tushar Mohite from the Phenomenon Dance crew in Hanuman Nagar, Kandivli, sums it up when he says, "MJ hamesha alag sochta tha. His steps are clean, and the way he picks up the beat is the best. But, more than anything, through dance, woh kahani sunata hai. That's why he still matters."

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