By now, everyone’s brown twitter has been blowing up on the disappointingly bland song #hymnfortheweekend.
There are some rather golden comments made in 142 characters (or less) both praising and deriding the video.
@DeepakNarang9 hits the nail on the head with this one, though.
The idea of #culturalappropriation is naturally being twitter-debated with all the skill and gusto of the RNC Presidential Debates. Or am I being unfair to the RNC? Some people see nothing wrong with ‘appreciating a culture for what it is;” some people are just happy to see the subcontinent in Western pop culture at all, while others are saying just shut up and enjoy the music.
The problem within these comments is that they gloss over somewhat imperialist, racist, and straight up inappropriate portions of the video (let alone the music itself – but that is for another article on ‘U2 with a piano’).
With a population of over a billion, 5 metro areas with a larger population than the London metro area (each with its own culture, language and traditions), Ben Mor and Chris Martin had a lot of options when it came to exploring and portraying India. Instead of selecting the land’s natural beauty, or any of so many vibrant cities, or even a rural, agricultural India where a large percentage of its population still exists, they chose a slum of Mumbai. Having a Brit portraying India in this 1942-era really made me think that some folks in Her Majesty’s lands really need to let it go. Those old projectors, dingy theaters, travelling Ramayana shows are all associated with colonial/post-colonial India. I guess we should thank our stars that they didn’t show the nice white man giving sweets/candy to the poor little orphans. If they wanted to actually show Mumbai (let alone India), they could have shown how different people live within 100’s of meters from each other; Mumbai has over 10 million cell phones; 6 million people ride the train system every day; dabbahwallas deliver over 160,000 tiffins every day; etc, etc. We then could be talking about income inequality/technological progress/new and old traditions/mixed cultures and religions/etc etc. Instead, we got Lord Mountbatten’s progeny bringing joy and happiness to those (literally) still living in the last days of the Raj.
Beyonce does not have a good look in this video, I hope the Bey Hive isn’t gonna come after me, but she should have known better! Everything from her outfits to her hand gestures just fell flat. There was nothing fierce about it, nothing showing Beyonce. It was just another example of the white gaze, just being done with someone who normally isn’t in that position. The sad part is that Beyonce could have stayed Beyonce – they got the highest paid Indian actress Sonam Kapoor to be in the video. Why not let her just be the recipient/manifestation of the white gaze? Kapoor was barely in the thing for 10 seconds.
I also *love* how they told the kids to play holi – because, you know, god forbid there is ANYTHING done with India/in India/with Indians/whatever without color. Otherwise how can you tell that the natives are having fun?! Can we please get something else to show joy/fun? How about an amusement park? Hanging out by the beach? Indians are regular people. We manifest joy in so many ways. Even when there isn’t any powder in sight- colored, or the white kind.
This video plays to cheap caricatures of India that have been around for many decades. White man in poor slum. Females only represented in Bollywood or hiding demurely in a room (where they belong). Non-South Asian women wearing Bollywood clothes. South Asians playing with colored powder. British Raj-era local amusements. Religious symbols.
Maybe they should have invited Taylor Swift and Iggy Azalea and they could have all gone to an Indian wedding and then a safari.
Guest Writer Shrenik Sanghvi- Special to usindiamonitor