Why India should chill about Coldplay’s new music video

Coldplay released the video of Hymn for the Weekend featuring Beyonce from their new album ‘A Head Full Of Dreams’ on Friday and soon accusations of cultural appropriation started flooding the internet.

Written by Aditi Anand | New Delhi | Updated: February 5, 2016 11:36 am
Coldplay, Coldplay mumbai, Hymn, A Head Full Of Dreams, Beyonce,Chris Martin, coldplay row, coldplay song row, coldplay video row, coldplay news The complains are that Beyonce is dressing in the garbs of a culture she doesn’t belong to, which is basically cultural appropriation by definition. (Source: YouTube)

Remember how sneaky Coldplay were in Mumbai recently to shoot a video? Well, it’s out now and the internet (like always!) has a lot to say about it.

Coldplay released the video of Hymn for the Weekend featuring Beyonce from their new album ‘A Head Full Of Dreams’ on Friday and soon accusations of cultural appropriation started flooding the internet.

Watch Coldplay’s video- Hymn For The Weekend

Now I, a fairly proud Indian, saw the video and the first thought was – beautiful! But well, let’s look at some of the reasons why Coldplay and especially Beyonce – who plays a Bollywood actress in the video – are drawing so much flak. The complains are that Beyonce is dressing in the garbs of a culture she doesn’t belong to, which is basically cultural appropriation by definition and that, Coldplay conveniently took some parts of the Indian culture and used it to represent as a whole feeding stereotypes.

But Beyonce putting Heena and wearing traditional Indian jewelery or Chris Martin playing Holi doesn’t seem all that problematic to me and here’s why.

Coldplay, Coldplay mumbai, Hymn, A Head Full Of Dreams, Beyonce,Chris Martin, coldplay row, coldplay song row, coldplay video row, coldplay news

In a video set in India, if Chris Martin was gushing over Beyonce dancing like she was in Drunk in love, through a periscope or otherwise, well that would just be a NO. But as the Bollywood actress ‘Rani’ she fits in seamlessly. Yes, it’s not her culture, but, so? That doesn’t mean she can’t play a role in her own song. Also, in no way does she up the extravagance of our film industry, even with the golden lip color (those in doubt Google “Shweta Shetty”). Plus, Queen B on Team Bollywood should always be a yay, but that’s just the fangirl in me speaking.

As for the rest of the video, I agree Holi is a cliche for foreigners trying to depict India but its not the worst thing. But even so, it continues to be an indispensable part of our culture. Martin’s video shows India in all its glory. The peacocks, the periscope, the puppets, the behrupiyas, the yellow and black cabs with colorful interiors, everything shouts India. For anyone getting their shields up to fight for India’s image to be more than that rural-ish image, look at the kids locking and popping their way through the video.

India is more than these things, sure, but all these are also the things that set our culture apart. Steve McCurry doesn’t come to India to capture an entire population grappling to adopt the Western culture, and neither did Martin. So maybe we could take a step back and lower our defences to appreciate the video for what it was meant to be. Art for art’s sake, right?

Views expressed by the author are personal.

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First Published on: January 30, 2016 12:25 pm
  1. Z
    Zahra
    Jan 31, 2016 at 9:07 pm
    But cultural attire isn't dress up. It's not simply role playing. It has meaning to people. Maybe not to you, but to many. Beyonce is not Indian. Bollywood or Indians in general don't need to thank her or applaude her for "dressing up". What she did was wrong. She's getting paid for a music video, dressed in things that we know very well she most probably doesn't even understand. White America and ignorant people all over the world will continue to use Holi as a fun time money making scheme to just throw ground up chalk around, play some trance music and act like it's "spiritual". Surely you know this. How do you think people feel about their beliefs and religious/ cultural celebrations being used over and over again in watered down presentations?
    Reply
    1. V
      Vbandhu
      Jan 30, 2016 at 1:43 pm
      Fantastic creation... Loved it
      Reply
      1. R
        Roshan
        Feb 1, 2016 at 6:42 pm
        Why would Indians be offended? I've seen Indian movies with scenes from all over the world, featuring people from those countries. It's just a song, and there's nothing disparaging about India, there only seems to be romantic -love- of India, if anything. Who would be so terrified that a person could love and idealize their country... apart from the xenophobes of that country. Stop the manufactured rage. It's a free tourism ad.
        Reply
        1. Y
          Yash
          Jan 30, 2016 at 5:43 pm
          I don't understand what this journalist is talking about. Who's got offended in India? Is it that this journalist has 50 friends who are very touchy about everything, and like a genius, this journalist extended her friends' feelings to 1.3 billion Indians? The only slightly inaccurate thing I found in the video was the 'Rani'/queen wearing chain-armor as facial makeup. Seems when westerners don't know enough about a culture, they subsute it with facial chain armor like the Persians in movie '300'. And just look at that run-down movie theater! Very rare in India, except maybe in slums, but hey that's what Americans think w of India is like. Also, when's the last time anyone has seen a blue d child dressed up as Shiva walking around or a floating yoga dude, except maybe near the Ganges? But since 'Slumdog millionaire' contained the 'avatar' Indian child, and the shooting was clearly being done in Mumbai, let's put one in, to remind the American viewers that this is India! Very unimaginative even from an artistic view! But hey, since the market being aimed at is the American market, who can blame these depictions pandering to the western stereotypes of India? It's definitely not purely art, but more commercial in this respect. Loved the kathakali artist/south Indian dance artists though! Would love to see some more Indian temple/forts architecture, also maybe some shots from north-east India! But yeah, sorry, have to disagree with your defense of this video based on solely artistic reasons ( 'grappling to adopt the Western culture', whoa?!?, seriously?! Inferiority complex anyone?). Also, have to disagree with your opinion that a lot of people in India have taken offense to this video. Maybe your 50-100 friends/cohorts, but definitely not 1.3 billion Indians. Critical yes possible, offended no!
          Reply
          1. Y
            Yash
            Jan 30, 2016 at 6:48 pm
            Not 'white' market, American market. These are the impressions of India held by everyone in US. 'Only torrenting ceaselessly can teach them lessons'... OR..... maybe just concentrating on developing India so that our market becomes just as important, if not more, than the North American market. Just like what's happening with China/Korea nowadays. Maybe coldplay might start singing a song in an Indian language with some shots from USA featuring a city with cowboys on the roadside shooting guns in the air, or a rich tycoon tipping one cent to a fast-food worker, lol!
            Reply
            1. G
              Gaurav J
              Jan 30, 2016 at 2:13 pm
              So progress and prosperity is "western culture" and slums and garbage bins make the Indian culture? wow our own people are pathetic.
              Reply
              1. G
                Gregory
                Jan 31, 2016 at 2:29 am
                Thank you
                Reply
                1. K
                  Kautilya
                  Jan 30, 2016 at 1:15 pm
                  "Steve McCurry doesn’t come to India to capture an entire potion grappling to adopt the Western culture" And how did this pressute get the impression that India's entire potion was grappling to adopt Western culture? Was he sleeping through the Award wapasi drama and beef controversies? Or is he conveniently having a different take on the same events to convey his 'Western' point of view?
                  Reply
                  1. W
                    WhoAmI
                    Jan 30, 2016 at 12:47 pm
                    Such a beautiful video.Feels so lively.
                    Reply
                    1. M
                      Malinda
                      Feb 16, 2016 at 4:37 am
                      Now this is what i was talking about... Well said. :)
                      Reply
                      1. D
                        David
                        Jan 30, 2016 at 11:33 pm
                        First try and understand how White America treats African Americans and Hispanic American who make up about 30 percent of the potion. The White power structure both liberal and conservative always demeans, distorts and insults non European cultures. Look at their academics, how they write on Islam, Arab culture, Hinduism, liberation struggle of South Americans, Chinese and the justified destruction of native people of the Americas. There is a deliberate pattern to this cultural distortion, call it psychological war. Many Indians like this pressitude are naive. Wake up, think.
                        Reply
                        1. D
                          David
                          Jan 30, 2016 at 11:39 pm
                          In the American news media both print, video and audio. They never, "never" say anything positive about India. Same thing for Chinese, Africans and Arab. Contrast this to how they portray Europeans.
                          Reply
                          1. D
                            David
                            Jan 30, 2016 at 11:18 pm
                            Oh! she is slavish of the JNU type. She lacks sophistication, how White American power puts down anything non European. Example, how their own Black and Hispanic citizens are treated who are 30 percent of potion.
                            Reply
                            1. D
                              David
                              Jan 30, 2016 at 11:11 pm
                              Well articulated. .
                              Reply
                              1. A
                                ARay
                                Jan 31, 2016 at 4:19 pm
                                I liked the video. Found nothing wrong in it.
                                Reply
                                1. R
                                  ric
                                  Feb 12, 2016 at 4:50 pm
                                  Does anyone know the name of the temple behind him? Also the name of the movie theater used in this video?
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    sayantani sarkar
                                    Jan 30, 2016 at 7:53 pm
                                    I appreciate your opinion and point of view on this topic. I just have one question for you: if you're questioning the journalist by saying who got offended then what data do u have to support that people did not get offended? Like you said there are 1.3 billion people...she must have definitely done her research before publishing something...this is not a personal blog but a reputed English daily! Also, this is an opinion piece and not a normal article. Your rebuttal and opinions on the argument would hold much more value without the personal attacks on the writer. It's a good point to keep in mind for next time before engaging in a debate.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      SHABIN SAJAN
                                      Jan 30, 2016 at 12:23 pm
                                      i didn't find anythng wrong with the video. i just liked it
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Suneet
                                        Jan 30, 2016 at 11:53 am
                                        It isn't 'cultural appropriation' - as some are saying it is. Not is it offensive. But cultural stereotyping? Definitely! ... Rather cliched, hackne imagery by the creative(?) team involved in making the video - kinda left me both amused and bemused. It does make for a feel-good, colourful (no brainer that, huh? DUH!) video, and some of the shots are relatively fresh/er (like the ending sequence on the boats), but ... Sadhu on a bamboo stick? Painted lil boys as Shiva and , etc etc? The India exotica cliches go on and on and on ... And I go yawn and yawn. And Yaaaaawwwnnnn.
                                        Reply
                                        1. P
                                          Paulraj
                                          Jan 30, 2016 at 12:33 pm
                                          Not sure what their problem is? Go all out! India belongs to the world, as the world to it. All the better if people benefit from India and Indians! It is democracy and has always been an open culture.
                                          Reply
                                          1. C
                                            CD
                                            Jan 30, 2016 at 2:42 pm
                                            Fundamentally, these "artists" don't care about India or Indians. Their sole focus is making money. And if the idea of "Colorful India" or whatever other exploitative notion that is least resistant for making most money comes handy, it will be emplo. Cultural pride of India should not be sourced from these kind of ham-fisted renditions from the commercial perspective west. And should the Indians fall prey to these "appropriations" very soon, Indians will be taught about their culture and what it is to be an Indian. Actually, this has happened once before. Perhaps then, this is the 2nd coming of British. Those who forget their pain are doomed to re-experience it.
                                            Reply
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