When Chris Martin performed an impromptu gig at a bar in Delhi’s Hauz Khas, little did anyone know that just months later the Coldplay singer along with his band and Beyonce would be facing flak for reinforcing a stereotypical view of Indians in their video, Hymn For The Weekend.
While the video showing excessively colourful visuals of holi, children dressed as Hindu gods and Sonam Kapoor and Beyonce appearing as stereotypical “bollywood queens” triggered social media outrage, Coldplay are not the first ones involved in cultural appropriation.
While the scenes in the video might be the things that singer Chris Martin specifically likes about India, here are few other instances when artists went too far while depicting Indian culture.
Major Lazer & DJ Snake-Lean On
As Coldplay’s Hymn For The Weekend faced a lot of flak for reinforcing a stereotypical picture of Indian culture, this video by Major Lazer, shot in an exotic palace, became the 15th most watched video on YouTube with a billion views, as the loud visuals were the musician’s depictions of India as “some special creature with one foot in history, and another firmly in the future“.
The video features Danish singer MO surrounded by Indian women, doing pelvic thrusts which seem nothing like an Indian dance form. The artists are also seen dancing on top of a bus with colourful exteriors, passing from a slum, dressed in strange attire somehow meant to resemble Indian clothing.
Iggy Azalea- Bounce
When the Australian rapper decided to shot a video after being inspired by an Indian wedding, a brightly lit Indian wedding costume party was somewhat expected, and the video opened with visuals of lanky Indian children playing cricket followed by Azalea dressed in bridal wear and colourful Saris, surrounded by Indian men and women in traditional attire, with a loud background.
But suddenly the rapper appears in the streets of Mumbai, dressed in shimmering golden attire, riding an elephant through the city, because maybe that’s a preferred mode of travel for most Indians. To add to it, Azalea also has a medieval crown on her head, and is dancing in a temple. Sticking to the stereotypical view of India, Azalea doesn’t miss out on lanky Indian children throwing colour at each other, and a visual of the Taj Mahal.
The Big Bang Theory
So the popular TV show was just another in a series of shows which reinforced Indian stereotypes like that typical accent and the notion that Indian men cannot interact with the opposite sex, through Raj played by Kunal Nayyar.
But this video seems to express that despite having lived in the United States and having American friends, the imagination of an Indian man is limited to that of a typical bollywood song with shiny dupattas, bright lights and background dancers.
Although the social media has enabled people to express their displeasure over the kind of cultural appropriation done in several videos, and tv series like Homeland in the past, hopefully it might also serve as a means for foreign artists to develop a better understanding of Indian culture.