Impression from Michael’s single visit to India: “I don’t have any more words to explain his impact.”

Michael's arrival in Mumbai, 1996

Michael only visited India once and performed there on November 1st 1996 at the Andheri Sports Complex as part of his HIStory World Tour. While in India, Michael stayed at the Oberoi Hotel.

The King of Pop arrived in Mumbai on October 30th, 1996 at Mumbai’s Sahar airport in his private jet. People had thronged the airport to catch a glimpse of him. Jackson was greeted by Sonali Bendre clad in a nine-yard sari and a Maharashtrian nathni (nose ring), standing with an aarti thali to welcome MJ, along with Raj Thackeray, Sharmila Thackeray and innumerable politicians who were there to receive Jackson. The actress welcomed Jackson by performing ‘aarti’ and applying ’tilak’ on his forehead, at the Mumbai airport. Outside, Raj had organised a performance by a troupe of lezhim dancers with dholaks, and they wore traditional Maharashtrian clothes.

The popstar, when being driven in a 20-car motorcade from the air port, stopped his Toyota to meet the urchins lined up along the highway to catch a glimpse of him. He picked up several children and hugged and kissed them. He then spent a few minutes with them before he proceeded to the Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray’s residence, Matushree, in Bandra East. Here he was presented with a silver tabla and tanpura, which are musical instruments from India.

During his stay at The Oberoi Hotel, Jackson surprised the entire staff by mingling freely among his fans, who thronged at the hotel to catch a glimpse of the ‘King of Pop’.”He greeted his fans with smiles and by blowing kisses and shook hands with as many of them as possible,” hotel sources recount.

According to Butler Manager, Sandeep Walia, who was attending to him with a team of three butlers, Michael loves sweet white wine. That is probably the only kind of alcohol that he consumed during his stay at the Oberoi. Apart from that, he loves orange drinks, Fanta being his favorite and a special German orange drink, Gatorade, which he carries with him. Michael drinks a lot of Diet Coke as well, prefers his drinks at room temperature. Jackson has a penchant for chocolates too, so The Oberoi made sure there were chocolates, of all shapes, sizes and flavours kept in every reachable corner of his room.

Michael Jackson likes a lot of festivity around him. The Kohinoor Suite at the Oberoi was decorated with flowers, balloons, confetti and bowls of sweets and chocolates to give it a spirit of celebration. While in his room, Jackson does not like to use the air-conditioner. He also likes his space. His body-guards have been instructed not to come close to him to give him enough space to move around. During his stay in Mumbai, Jackson relished several Indian cuisine, including South Indian and Mughlai.

SOURCE: http://www.fulldhamaal.com/image-gallery/rare-pictures-of-michael-jackson-india-tour1996-18-pics-and-video-its-all-about-michael-part-7-8463.htm

The following is from various sources:

Michael asked The Oberoi Hotel for an LLD player and a television, as well as a CD player for his personal use. He travels with his own library of CDs and LDs and spends most of the time indoors, watching films.

At Michael’s request, a high tea was organized at the pool side of the Oberoi where kids from orphanages were invited to meet and play with him. He gave them gifts and chocolates that he had brought with him. There was a party for kids organized in his room as well, on the day of the show itself. About 50 children were invited and he ordered cakes and burgers for them. He had the kids sit on his lap and played with them. He had asked the hotel to provide him with a few saris which he wanted draped around the sofas during the photo session with the kids, to give his pictures the ethnic effect.

Michael definitely had a predilection for Indian food. On his first morning at the Oberoi, he ate masala dosa and the day after that, he had spicy alu paranthas with butter. His other meals mainly comprised of butter naans, butter chicken, tandoori chicken and spicy vegetable curries. His personal chef was of Indian origin and she coordinated his meals with the other chefs at the hotel. According to the hotel staff, he got naans (enough for an army!), tandoori chicken, dishes cooked in butter gravy and lots of paranthas packed on the morning he was flying out of India.

Michael surprised the staff at the Oberoi hotel as he spent a lot of his time greeting and shaking hands with his fans who were swarming the lobby.

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Below is video of Michael in India from the time he arrived at the airport. He is seen with the street children at 2.55 and receiving gifts at 5.32 along with footage of the concert. Michael is also seen at an evening event to meet dignitaries but only stayed a few minutes as he was saving his energy for the show later that evening. At the end of the video (7.15) is the pillow that Michael wrote on in the hotel room along with a message that he also wrote on a mirror in the hotel room that said “God Bless India My Special Love Michael Jackson“.

When Michael left the Oberoi Hotel while the hotel was preparing his suite for the next VIP guest, they found Michael’s gift to them: rather mischievously Michael had scribbled on the pillow he had slept on.

India, all my life I have longed to see your face. I met you and your people and fell in love with you. Now my heart is filled with sorrow and despair for I have to leave, but I promise I shall return to love you and caress you again. Your kindness has overwhelmed me, your spiritual awareness has moved me, and your children have truly touched my heart. They are the face of God. I truly love and adore you India. Forever, continue to love, heal and educate the children, the future shines on them. You are my special love, India. Forever, may God always bless you.  -Michael Jackson

Bharat Shah, jeweller and film-financier, bought the pillow for a unstated amount of money in an auction held for charity.

Michael's love note to India, left on his pillow at the Oberoi Hotel

Below, photojournalist Mahesh Bhat recalls Michael Jackson’s 1996 tour of India:

Upcoming concert of Michael Jackson in Mumbai was the big news. I had no plans of going for it. Few days before the concert, I got a call from my friend Shantanu Sheoreyi. He was involved in the event on an advisory capacity. “Mahesh, we need someone to document MJ’s visit and the concert, will you do it?” he asked me. “Will I do it? Whoa….I was on the next plane to Mumbai.”

Well, I reached a day before MJ’s scheduled arrival. I had discussions with people concerend which was followed by a visit to the stadium in Andheri where the performance was to be held. A large wooden platform was built. The entire stage would be transported in 2 Antonovs. I was told that his crew would put it up in 24 hours.

On the day of his arrival, we reached the airport ahead of time. I was to document his visit from his first step out of the plane. Few of us were escorted to the door of the skybridge. Actor Sonali Bendre had the honour of welcoming MJ. One page 3 type business tycoon wanted to be there too but he was unceremoniouly shoved away by the cops. The plane carrying MJ landed. Immigration officials went into the aircraft to complete the formalities. People started coming out. Suddenly I see a familiar face…my friend photographer John Isaac! – Hugs and “hey what are you doing here” exchanged. I learnt that John had accepted the assignment of documenting the life and work of MJ and was travelling with him!

Then MJ himself comes out. Wow the legend right in front of me, few feet away. He rushes out and I shoot pictures. Cars are waiting to whisk him away. A luxury van was waiting for him. I got into a SUV with a skyroof, so that I could stand up and shoot the motorcade. Yes, I rode in the motorcade with MJ. As we left the airport, MJ saw a whole lot of kids from the slums and asked the car to be stopped. We all jumped out. He wanted to get some video footage with them. There were three videographers shooting every move he made. Kids rushed and picked whatever they could find on the road – soiled cigarette packets, pieces of paper…and all for autographs. MJ was merrily signing on them, he didn’t forget to tell his video crew not to miss recording any of it ‘Make sure you are getting everything…..‘ he kept saying.

All roads cordoned off and we zipped to Bal Thackrey’s residence, that was MJ’s first port of call. There chaos reigned. Machine gun toting cops with walkie-talkies that had meter long antennae were not able to stop the horde of waiting press photographres from breaking the cordon and going inside. John and I were left out. Later, they took us inside. MJ got some gifts and nothing much was said. He sat with a distant expression on his face.

That evening, a dinner was organised at the Oberoi Towers where he was staying. Who’s who of Mumbai and entire Bollywood was invited. Menu was totally vegetarian. MJ was there on time, most of the who’s who weren’t. There was a small fucntion. MJ received a diamond-studded miniature Taj Mahal. Someone made a speech. A well-known character actor jumped to the dias, shook MJ’s hand and jumped like a monkey!! And MJ went back to his room. Neither did he talk to anyone nor did he touch the laid out food. Then the who’s who started landing up and they had to eat that vegetarian food! People hung around and ate muttering under their breath. The next day I read in newspapers how one of the music directors of Bollywood (The man who has a penchant for gold…no prizes for guessing who!!) was going to collaborate with MJ to produce an album and that MJ showed keen interest in his gold necklace. The fact was that he arrived fashionably late for the dinner and didn’t even get to glimpse MJ.

On his way out, MJ shook hands with one of the waiters. That chap fainted!

Next day – it was the day before the concert, MJ didn’t come out of his suite. I hung out with John Isaac in his room. The floor of the Oberoi Towers was occupied by MJ entourage and no one was else was allowed. John Isaac was born in Chennai. He worked briefly for Air India and went to NYC to become a guitar player. Instead he became a photographer and rose to be the chief photographer of the United Nations and a celebrated photojournalist. John was doing a lot of work for UNICEF. Audrey Hepburn, the then goodwill ambassador of UNICEF and a friend of John introduced him to MJ. John told me about MJ’s love for poetry and that they were planning on a book of MJ’s poems and John’s pictures. It didn’t materialise finally.

All day long the glitterati of Bollywood was descending to the hotel to ‘meet’ MJ. But no one was allowed to get into the lift even. Heartbreaks all over. Suddenly there was commotion. In the midst of tight security, a chap from Bihar managed to get into the hotel with a nicely packed muzzle loader on his shoulder! Don’t ask me how. So cops took him away and found out that he had come to Mumbai in search of a job. And he landed up in the hotel because some one told him he might find a job here.

MJ’s security detail comprising of several ex-marines was always very tough. After this incident they became paranoid. There was a lot of friction and temperature was always on the boil. Later we asked them why were they so worried. ‘Well, he is our bread and butter..we can’t let anything happen to him’, said the security in-charge. They were protecting him to safeguard themselves.

There was a plan of taking MJ to Madh Island. He wanted to visit the Mumbai centre of Nirmal Hriday. But some joker faxed a death threat. Security clamped down and vetoed any visit. MJ was inconsolable. He began to cry uncontrollably in his suite. It took some of his friends almost an hour to console him. That’s when I thought that he was trapped in a diamond studded platinum cage. However the death threat did not deter some of his crew from hitting the town. I think even some of his bodyguards took an evening off. The boss couldn’t step out of his room!

That evening there was photo shoot with a whole lot of kids. It was on the terrace of the hotel and then later we moved into his suite. I did a lot of portraits of his there. He didn’t interact with any adult. But did talk to many kids. Some of them didn’t talk to him. ‘Dadu he looks like ghost’, said a kid and refused to sit on his lap. That kid must be about 18-20 now! MJ had this massive 3D collage made from B&W pictures of his family. I heard him tell someone that he carried it with him everywhere.

MJ didn’t want to be disturbed. He meditated and just before the concert, met with the key people from the Indian side and took pictures. I had reached the venue well in advance. Had a choice of two places to shoot from – the ‘pit’ at the bottom of the stage or in front of the sound console. It had a direct view and I didn’t have to jostle for space. I chose the latter. VIP box too was there. Asha Bhosle, Sunil Gavaskar, Prabhu Deva.. and the thousands of fans were waiting for the performance to begin.

MJ’s stage was air conditioned and maintained at 16 degree centigrade. There were two massive AC plants pumping cool air. Massive air curtains in the front were keeping warm air out. There was a meditation room, if he chose to meditate during the break. It didn’t matter where he performed; the stage was exactly the same.

The performance was amazing. He was truly a great entertainer. Ashaji was on her feet, dancing! She asked all the younger women in the VIP box to dance along. I turned around to see Sunny Gavaskar grooving! Prabhu Deva told his fans that it was like watching his god!

I don’t have any more words to explain his impact.

SOURCE: http://entertainment.in.msn.com/hollywood/article.aspx?cp-documentid=3069357#page=1

One of Mahesh Bhat's photos of Michael in 1996

Really nice profile shot of Michael by Mahesh Bhat in 1996

In the story and video below, a Mumbai girl talks about her dance with Michael. “I just wish he’d died with all the legacy he deserved“, she laments.

Thirteen-years ago (now 16 years), when Piya Thakkar stood in line to watch the historic Michael Jackson concert in Mumbai, little did she know that she’d come out a mini-celebrity herself.

It was an act Michael Jackson performed in every city during his History tour – dancing with a girl to his hit song ‘You Are Not Alone‘ and in Mumbai Piya was the lucky girl.

Suddenly I was known as the girl who danced with Michael Jackson and I lost all other identity. I hugged him and he was trying to slow dance with me and then he just went down on his knees and I was so shocked,” says Piya Thakkar.

Some fans had to be pulled away by security, others cried, and still more sat down on the stage in disbelief. Piya showed her loyalty by refusing to bathe or change clothes she’d worn at the concert for days.

I didn’t bathe for just about one-and-a-half days, but the number of days was exaggerated a little in reports, but then I realised I couldn’t go on like this so I got over it after two days,” says she.

It’s no wonder then that when the news of Jackson’s death flashed on TV screens across the world, Piya felt an almost personal loss.

I’m not that much of a cry baby but for the past two-three days it’s been consuming me. I just wish he’d died with all the legacy he deserved,” she said.

And in making that wish for the late King of Pop, Piya is certainly not alone in the world.

Choreographer Ganesh Hegde, who did the opening act at Michael’s concert in 1996, recalls his meeting with Jackson “as the best one minute of his life”. “I met Mr Jackson in his green room which was pitch-dark, with a light flickering in one corner. He shook my hand and told me that he liked my performance very much. It was my biggest moment.” “Pop culture began with Michael Jackson and ends with him.”

Shobhaa De wrote later: “Those of us who were lucky enough to catch his concert will never ever forget the magic of those golden hours when Jackson enthralled a crowd with a performance that was staggering in its impact. It still makes my hair stand on end. I have never seen such energy, such commitment and such excellence. He was stupendously brilliant and I watched his final encore with tears steaming down my face.

When he repeatedly whispered, ‘I love you’ to the mesmerised crowd, you believed him of course, he loved us all. Individually, at that. It was one glorious evening. And I went away with the feeling, I had been privileged enough to witness a historic performance by one of the world’s greatest entertainers.

I remember him alighting from his private jet and his entourage came in four other planes. The airport came to a standstill for an hour with officers, aircraft crew and passengers coming to greet him,” says Sabbas Joseph, director, Wizcraft, which organised the concert. Even Anil Ambani lent his open roof car to the star.

Jackson’s entry into the hotel here was a grand affair with people from nearby offices coming to get a glimpse of him. “He asked for a free-standing, full-length mirror in the room and he signed it at the time of his departure. He also signed a pillow slip from his room.

Jackson mesmerised the crowd and this is what made him so popular says Duane Woodman, a commercial pilot who attended his concert in Mumbai. “My most vivid memory of the concert is Jackson circling the stadium in a helicopter and then making an entry from a rocket capsule,” he says.

His moonwalk, in a gold and black suit, had girls gasping, says actor Prashant Raj. “But it was his Thriller, a youth anthem then, that got everyone going.

Rony D’Costa, creative supervisor, Zee Motion Pictures, grew up listening to Jackson. “I knew I couldn’t miss it, but then I couldn’t afford the ticket. So a friend and I gate-crashed and stood near the barricade close to the stage. Michael was just five feet away from us. It was magical,” he says, recalling more funny instances from the concert. “There was an ambulance kept for emergency but it was at work throughout. Every time Michael screamed ‘I love you very much’ there were girls fainting,” he smiles.

As Raj Thackeray’s guest, MJ also visited Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s residence, Matoshree, in Bandra. The Thackerays presented him with a silver tabla and tanpura. There’s a lovely story connected with the visit. MJ had to go to the loo (bathroom) and was zapped when he stepped into the Tiger’s Indian-style toilet. No knowing how to use it, he had to seek Raj’s help to relieve himself!

To this day, choreographer Ganesh Hegde still remembers and honors Michael. In June 2011 with a new album coming out, he said:

Michael Jackson has been my biggest inspiration for music as well as choreography. He gave me the reason to believe that even people like myself, who come from a very humble background can make it big with talent and hardwork.” Ganesh remembers: “In 1996, MJ had come to Mumbai for a concert and I was performing as the opening act. When he came backstage, there was a sudden commotion and all my dancers on stage turned their backs towards the audience to look at him! Later, he called for us in his room, where I told him that I was the choreographer for the act and he shook hands with me. I also told him ‘I love you’ to which he replied ‘I love you too’. He was really a great personality.”

India, like many other cities and countries around the world, has dedicated a statue of Michael, which they want to donate to Neverland. RC Golden Granites in Chennai, India has created a full size Michael Jackson Statue. The demise of Michael upset owner Mr.R. Chandrasekaran and so he decided to pay tribute to Michael by doing something different and made a statue.

We want to do something different in that, so we built a Michael Jackson statue in single black granite which weighs about 3.5 tonnes and we want to send the statue to Michael Jackson’s foundation at Neverland. The statue was sculpted out of a single block of granite rock – 12ft height and weighs 3.5 tons. It took 45 days to sculpt the legend’s statue with six highly experienced chennai craftsmen in granite working round the clock.

The Chennai-based granite firm spent $25,000 sculpting the statue out of a single block of huge rock that was quarried from a mine near Kanakapura, about 50 km from Bangalore. “We employed six artisans to chisel the granite into Jackson’s shape in 45 days at our factory in Kancheepuram. As black granite is brittle, the aesthetic art work was a test of patience, diligence and skill. His face and eyes were the most challenging as we wanted the statue to be expressive and poignant,” Chandrasekaran said.

It’s a personal tribute to the greatest pop singer of our times! He lives in our hearts as he was on stage for years.

You can see the statue briefly in this video:

Granite statue of Michael from RC Granite in Chennai, India

Finally, I’ll leave you with a Dubai Fountain presentation of ‘Thriller‘, courtesy of reader Nino Fincher:

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{ Many thanks to UK Loves MJ on Facebook for compiling this fantastic information about Michael’s only visit to India! -Seven }

Leave a Reply

  1. Michael had given a beautiful speech at his felicitation. But he was a million light years ahead of his time that I wonder if the crowd even bothered to understand what he said. In India, he was just as much a phenomenon as anywhere else in the world. People who had never listened to a note of Western music listened to his music. Every time I see his public appearances I can only marvel at his courage–to go out there and meet each and every one, to accept the love and worship poured over him with such humility and grace. And he remained human even under incredible pressure. Some of the things Michael personifies, to me, is courage and fearlessness. Thank you seven for this.

  2. I am from India and I can say that Michael is no lesser than a deity over here. You can go to any corner of India, to the most rural of ares, to the slums where the poorest live and you will find people who have heard of MJ. The same people would have no clue about Obama, Beatles, Oprah or Elvis. These are so many people in India who cannot even speak English, who started dancing because of MJ and who teach their kids his signature moves and dress them up in his style. I remember one time, it was the 1st time I was watching This Is It at home on my TV and our servant came and saw the screen. He says “Isn’t that Michael Jackson?” (in Hindi). And this guy does not know how to speak english, he can construct a broken english sentence at most. I was just astounded at that time, by the sheer reach of Michael and how pervasive his influence his. It’s just unbelievable. No one will ever reach that magnitude again. God bless him.

  3. Samba … I cried for your comment …. Michael’s love has touched the whole world ….Seven wonderful article … thanks a shame not to see it the media…

  4. Wonderful article, Seven! How respected and beloved he is in India. What a terrible shame for his own country to celebrate him as a mega star during the ’80’s and then systematically tear him apart and abandon him. No wonder he wanted to live abroad.

    Beautifully expressed, Samba!

  5. Hello Seven, it’s lovely to read this article.

    I’m from India too and i agree with Samba that Michael is very much respected here and there are innumerable movies where you can see his impact! But alas, the media again managed to contol people with all the lies. There are people who may ask lots of awkward questions the moment they come to know that you are a Michael fan. But I’m really happy with the fact people DO respect him.

    Whenever I read these articles of Michael’s visit to India, i weep in my heart…because when he came here in 1996, i was only one year old LOL!and I did not see his concert! I can only imagine how divine it would have been to see Michael in front of us, dancing and singing to the songs we wake up to everyday…

    It’s so sad that his wish and our hope was unfulfilled, wish Michael came back to India…maybe in another birth…

  6. Well, here it is, once again a true picture of who Michael really was- a loving, caring, giving, selfless man. There he was after a long journey, going to perform, and instead of resting, taking it easy, relaxing he’s doing his best to meet the needs of all of those wanting some of his time and attention. From the wealthy and privileged to the very poor (who seemed to interest Michael the most)Michael gave of himself and made them all feel equally important. I was always a fan but I have to say seeing all of the footage of Michael as he went around the world and seeing the masses he so affected I am overwhelmed because I had no idea of the extreme impact he was having around the world – you NEVER saw or heard of it in the media, EVER and I have to say I have a level of resentment toward them that I don’t think I’ll ever lose. Michael was a genuine gift and I am so thankful for him. Oh, as for that reference of the child who didn’t want to sit on Michael’s lap – that’s okay kid, move over, I’ll take your place and snuggle up on his lap any time! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

  7. I think the media were afraid of his power, his impact all around the world. His amazing concert was all the more amazing because I think he had just broken from Lisa Marie and he did look a little far away and sad. The statue was a lovely gesture; I just wish it looked a bit more like him and they had got the hat’s angle right – and bigger!

  8. Of course. That video and more about its background and creation was featured on this site here: http://www.mj-777.com/?p=8457 – in fact the original creators of the video did not want it posted on YouTube – particularly not with other material placed at the beginning or end – or with comments enabled, so the person who posted the video you linked to has violated that request two ways: by placing other material at the beginning and end of the video, and by posting it with comments enabled. The video should only be posted in full, without any extra material added, and with comments disabled, if it is posted on YouTube.

  9. I am sorry . . . I was unaware this was not the original creator. My apologies . . . . .although it provided a true portrayal of Michael Jackson.

  10. Dear Seven only Michael could be this way, and only YOU could have written this, I can not begin to tell you how deeply this touched me, It shook me down to the core. BTW did you know some of the peeps coming forward are TOP BOLLYWOOD celebs, see how humbled they are in Michaels presence,,, thank you hun, Lots of Love….

  11. I agree it’s a great video! No worries about the video. I figured you didn’t know when you shared it. 🙂

  12. Thank you for this article. I have always wanted to know about Michael Jackson visiting my home country, India. I grew up listening to his music. They don’t care about us, Black or white were some of the songs I used to watch when I was a kid. And when Michael performed in India I was just 4 years old. :\
    Now, thanks to the World Wide Web 😛 , I have gained heaps of knowledge about Michael and how much he cared for this planet. He donated millions to charities and did everything for the suffering children. The video showing Michael shaking hands with the children of slums in Mumbai brought tears in my eyes. They have no idea that they had been touched by an Angel.
    Michael was too good for this world. This world will never again see such a loving, caring and a “beautiful” man. I can only wish that I can get to meet him in another “birth” probably. 😛
    R.I.P Angel. You have taught us a lot. And you will continue to live in our hearts, forever.

  13. Pingback: Michael besucht Mumbai, Indien – HIStory-Tour 1996 | all4michael