Of Coldplay and Cultural Appropriation!

Coldplay is out with its second single ‘Hymn for the Weekend’, from the album, ‘A Head Full of Dreams’. The video shows the underbelly of Mumbai B Boying and catches the genial ambience of Holi. The scene is strewn with levitating sadhus, a child dressed  as Lord Shiv and few Chottumal fancy dress variants of Hanuman
A debate is on whether there is a right mix of exotica marrying the symbolic poverty, considered attractive to the Western post colonial leanings, in the video. 
There is also of course Beyonce -the Bollywoodesque, actually more of a village ‘nautanki’ queen -a.k.a Rani whose show Martin- the lead singer is seen moving towards in a kitschy cab, where ordinary Indians are juxtaposed with ambient spirituality. 
Ben Mor, the video director, couldn’t have asked for a better video statistics- last count over a 1 and a half million hits on YouTube! 
Here’s why I think – cultural appropriation would be the last thing on anyone’s mind, amongst those involved in the video( Sonam Kapoor – who’s there in a half-a-blink and miss role- doesn’t count , coz’ she probably herself didn’t care too much about the details! Its’ a Coldplay video- and she got to feature in it! ) For those from Mars, here’s the video!  Have a dekho!
  • Poverty Much?
Poverty may not be the only reality of India – but sad as it may be- it’s time we faced it squarely- it’s a large reality ! Especially the urban poor! According to the last estimates- 35 percent of urban population lives below poverty line. Some would say, but the majority are middle class- yes so would representing an average middle class family make things better? Nope! How would that be suitable and fair representation of the multiplicity and plurality of India? Think!
  • Cultural Micro-represenation Versus Appropriation 
First things first , Read what is cultural appropriation here.
Second, understand why the video is just that a three minute moving grab of a touristy India! Then again, don’t the #IncredibleIndia campaigns do just that? Pander to the old colonial concept of India as the land of the exotica- replete with the elephants and fantastical mythology? Also, there are many instances of India being used as a backdrop for many either videos and popular art forms- Have we forgotten Slumdog Millionaire- which is based on a book written by an Indian btw? Point?
Yes, we can say that only a part of India that is Holi, Bollywood, congested streets, and the young aspirational urban slum dwellers is depicted in the video- but to say that it’s a crime, is stretching it a bit too far!
  • Artistic Freedom, anyone?
What’s that? Artists and any creative, divergent thinker is picked out and brought straight to the guillotine. Be it M.F Husain or Taslima Nasreen! A democracy has many disadvantages too- too many people to please. I may be offended by what your take in life is and vice versa. Who’s to decide? Are we saying that facing up to our urban poverty, breaking of rules- riding in threes- and and an aspirational urban dweller are realities that we don’t wish to be shown in a mirror, especially by a foreigner? 
Trust me, we have our own proclivities, biases, parochialism, xenophobia and intolerance that are enough to appropriate the true Indian culture of ‘Live and Let Live’! 
We don’t have to go too far to play the blame game for cultural hijacking! So enjoy the mayhem, ecstasy and pain that the many Indias have to offer while humming Martin’s tune! 

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