By: Zenab Saeed ~Staff Writer~
British alternative rock band Coldplay recently released a video that has been accused of appropriating Indian culture. On Jan. 29, they released the music video for their single “Hymn for the Weekend,” featuring vocals from Beyoncé, off of their 2015 album “A Head Full of Dreams.” Immediately after the release of the music video, directed and filmed by Ben Mor, it became the subject of controversy and a target for criticism. The music video, which was filmed in India this past October, features an array of almost every clichéd representation about the Indian nation and culture imaginable.
It opens with a shot of a white peacock and Indian monks adorned in bright orange. It includes scenes of Coldplay’s lead singer, Chris Martin, walking through colorful streets full of children celebrating Holi and riding in a rickshaw.
It shows young girls dressed with traditional clothing and jewelry performing the classical Indian Bharathanatyam dance. Most notably, however, the video depicts Beyoncé as a stereotypical Bollywood actress, dressed in colorful Indian clothing, her hands covered with mehndi designs and her wrists adorned with bangles.
Critics of the video claim it features heavy cultural appropriation, the use of elements from another culture, for profit and out of a place of power.
Many think that Beyoncé’s appearance in the video treats Indian culture as a costume and that the video employs her as a prop merely to fulfill its entertainment quota.
However, others say that the video should not be the object of such disapproval because it positively portrays India.
The end of the music video even features Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor. Critics point to the irony that the video stars Beyoncé as the Bollywood actress rather than using Kapoor. Though her appearance only comprises a total of a few seconds in the video, Kapoor responded to the controversy surrounding the video and disagreed with accusations of cultural appropriation.
“We as Indians use a lot of westernization in our films and our music videos. No one speaks of us offending other people’s sensibilities. But they are showing a part of India which exists,” Kapoor said in an interview with CNN.
Though it may be true that the video shows a reality within India, it also neglects to show the entirety of India’s reality, which is why the issue of cultural appropriation finds truth among the video’s clichéd, overly-technicolor, exoticised and stereotypical depiction of India.
However, the artistic intent of the music video was likely not to achieve cultural appropriation, but rather to show an appreciation and admiration for the beauty in Indian culture.
Maybe it is not the duty of the artists to show the entirety of Indian culture in a four-minute music video for a song that Chris Martin originally envisioned as a party song.
The two popular artists, though under fire for their collaboration on this music video, can use their fame, power and platform to show their appreciation through artistic expression while also maintaining respect.