Lots of people misunderstand me because they don’t know me, says Michael Jackson — baby-faced (yes,he used to be that once upon a time) and innocent. This clipping features in a special documentary — Bad 25 — made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his seventh studio album,Bad. The clipping appears amid his delicious moonwalk,gravity-defying dance movements and chartbusters. I was so mesmerised by the beauty of all these,which made him world’s biggest pop star,that I was ready to believe anything he said.
Yet,I am not a bona fide MJ fan. I just find the phenomenon that he was,intriguing. And his life — from being a child protege to be anointed king of pop and,later,adopting outre ways — curiously interesting. Even amusing,at times. But then,I could not ignore the fact that these words carry the frustration of a man who tried to make sense of the world as much as the world tried making sense of him. It also gives away the fact that he had somewhat made his peace with the world. He was widely loved,yet his personality wasn’t easy to decode.
The documentary is scheduled to premiere at the Venice Film Festival that begins on August 29. And I had the privilege of watching an abridged,18-minute,version of it at an interactive session that Sony Music had conducted recently. Despite its short duration,it captures his genius,magic and enigma. It has rehearsal clippings,interviews with co-artistes and collaborators. Bad 25’s best feature: it’s anecdotal. My favourite one is narrated by Tatiana Thumbtzen,the svelte model and actor with curly mane and in a body-hugging black dress he pursues in The Way You Make Me Feel,one of the tracks in Bad. Even after all these years,she is still very svelte. She recalls the director asking her not to kiss MJ as he was very shy. However,when she hugs him at the end of the song,she could smell mint on his breath. Even though she could have taken advantage of it,she was too convinced about his shyness to do otherwise. It’s another story,and not shown in the documentary,that she was fired from MJ ‘s tour much later for kissing him onstage while performing this song.
The documentary directed by Spike Lee has some 40 interviews. It features Kayne West,Mariah Carey,Sheryl Crow,Justin Bieber and many others. It also has footages of Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese shooting a video with MJ at a subway; the pop star rehearsing his inimitable moves for the song Smooth Criminal and,most importantly,his live performance at Wembley stadium,UK,in 1988. The last one was discovered in MJ’s private collection and is said to be the concert’s only copy.
By the time I finished watching the documentary,I kind of had began to understand the importance of Bad in the history of pop music. And frankly,I had never bothered to figure it out before. Till now,my memories of Bad mainly consisted of watching MTV’s music shows on DD Metro in the afternoon after returning from college. A programme of western music and videos was a novelty for me then. Since a heavy dose of Hindi film music was administered by my film-crazy parents from the time I was born,understanding MJ’s music took a while. But his dance,oh yes,it made an instant impression.
When Sony officials keep their promise of releasing Bad 25 in India within some months,I have a feeling it would offer some revelations even to those who have followed MJ’s career and life closely. Still,I doubt,his enigma can ever be fully unravelled.