Late pop star Michael Jackson stares out of a blank slide in a PowerPoint presentation, clad in a black leather jacket from his album ‘Bad’, but with an unlikely headline above his head. Jackson is featured on the shortlist of the Anti Narcotics Cell (ANC) of the Mumbai Police, as a ‘Victim of Drugs’ in a presentation that has been shown in educational institutes and police stations across the city.
For its fortnight-long campaign to battle drug abuse, the police has also turned for inspiration to a 2004 project by a police force in the US, that had recorded the gruesome changes in facial features of arrested criminals addicted to methamphetamine in 2004.
The Mumbai police is unaware of the source of the images or the significance of using Jackson’s likeness, because all the images came from a simple Google search. The presentation, which focuses largely on the effects of crystalline form of methamphetamine on the body, has been prepared by DCP Kishore Jadhav of the ANC.
Jadhav has a simple explanation: “Jackson is an idol to many and people should know what their idol did.” Jackson died aged 50 in 2009 under mysterious circumstances from an overdose of the anaesthetic propofol. The drug is administered intravenously to induce anaesthesia. His personal physician, Dr Conrad Murray, was later sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
Jackson is preceded by a compilation of five ‘before and after’ pictures — meant to demonstrate the effects of drug use — that begins with another deceased American, singer Whitney Houston. The ‘before’ picture shows a young Houston in her prime and the ‘after’ frame shows her in a dishevelled state.
Three of the four pictures that follow bear the hallmark of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland, located in the northwestern US state of Oregon. The pictures are of the 2004 project ‘Faces of Meth’ executed by the deputy Bret King of the sheriff’s office.
King said he was unaware of the Mumbai Police’s campaign. “As long as they are accurately portraying those in the images and they are using those images to educate others as to the dangers of substance abuse, I encourage them to continue. I encourage other police forces to do the same and in fact, they are, all over the globe,” he told Mumbai Newsline in an email.
Another image is that of the disfigured face of a woman in her thirties. American national Heather Raybon, suffered burn injuries to her face during in an explosion in her home in 2004, when she and her partner were manufacturing meth in an illegal laboratory.
The presentation also incorporates images from a 2009 documentary, Suee, by filmmaker Sai Paranjpe. The film is about a young man who was addicted to drugs and contracted HIV after using infected needles, but was brought back from the brink after receiving timely medical care for his gangrened leg.
Jadhav said that the idea was to shock the target audience into action. “When we showed the images in public hospitals, the staff covered their faces and winced,” he said. The ANC’s initiatives will reach out to nearly 5 lakh people, Jadhav said.