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'Hymn For The Weekend': Yes To The Colours, No To The Colonial Fetishisation

03/02/2016 8:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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So the universally loved band Coldplay is back with their new single, "Hymn for the Weekend" and it really did make my weekend. Thank you for that, Coldplay.

As then I started reading the criticism of it, mostly for cultural appropriation. I definitely noticed it too, much like in last year's "Lean On" by Major Lazer and Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" but I am sorry, I cannot understand how the depiction of India in this is entirely stereotypical and nothing beyond that. There are some clichés and problematic representations of women that I will get into, but there is something to celebrate too.

I fail to understand how Holi is a bad motif. Don't you see colours used in Bollywood songs all the time?

Depiction of India

OK, I'm not a big fan of the opening sequence of sadhus either, but let's get past that tired imagery for a while. I actually found myself quite delighted by the marvellous variety of colours used in the video. Some people have slammed the band for using Holi in a clichéd fashion ("we don't play Holi all year"). Honestly, I fail to understand how Holi is a bad motif. Don't you see colours used in Bollywood songs all the time? Also, I urge you to, for one tiny moment, go back to being tabula rasa and just place the lyrics alongside the beautiful taxi interiors and festivities.

"Life is a drink, and love's a drug. Oh, now I think I must be miles up.

When I was a river, dried up, you came to rain a flood..."

When the lyrics are so beautiful, all I could do was to think of India as the drug of love or the rain which saves dried rivers. Perhaps, I'm too much of an optimist, but when you repeatedly use the liveliness and the millions of colours to say "got me feeling drunk and high", can it not mean that the beauty and vivaciousness is so mesmerising that it can get one (metaphorically) high? Harivansh Rai Bachchan explored similar themes in "Madhushala". Of course, while that was a work of patriotism, Coldplay's video shifts to a colonial gaze because of the White man's power to depict decolonised areas as per his will. While I agree that some of the images were stereotypical, I also believe that they can be interpreted in a more positive light. Take me to court for it but I'd still say that depicting India as a place full of colours cheered me up.

Bash Coldplay for this video as much as you want to but try not to deny the beauty in numerous frames!

Would it have been nice to see glimpses of modern India in the video? YES, of course! Chris Martin was in a Hauz Khas Village joint last year so he definitely knows that we are not just a nation of slums and villages.

Bash Coldplay for this video as much as you want to but try not to deny the beauty in numerous frames!

Beyoncé and the Indian Woman

Here I am largely critical of the video.

Firstly, if they (Coldplay and the director) wanted to depict a Bollywood beauty, they could have roped in an actual Indian actress. Instead, they used Sonam Kapoor to fling some flower petals for five seconds. This is very problematic. If you are using a country as the backdrop of your music video, why can't you also include actual Indian performer?

Secondly, Beyoncé's picture on the tiny television sets in rural areas and the juxtaposition with the poor, old woman is very baffling. This basically shows that Indian women will continue to be the silent spectators of Western women celebrating their rights. Their role is to sport a ghagra choli and be an exotic object. Combine this with the fact that the children dancing during the zenith of the song are all male (like the two diving into the water) and the women are the viewers at the back.

The only woman with a voice is Beyoncé. She is the Queen Bee of the hive of Indian women -- a symbol of colonisation.

There is not one single Indian woman in the four-minute video who represents progress or modernity. The only woman with a voice is Beyoncé. She is the Queen Bee of the hive of Indian women -- a symbol of colonisation. This also puts to rest the argument that only light-skinned folks participate in racism.

Regardless of all these debates, Coldplay definitely gave me a hymn to sing this weekend. While India is surely much more than just sadhus and ghagras, carefree and colourful celebrations of life also define our spirit.

Maybe try less colonial fetishisation of India next time?

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