Coldplay’s Hymn for the Weekend video draws ire from India’s social media commentators
There were strutting peacocks. Ancient ruins. Bearded mystics in flowing saffron robes. We counted five of these sages, one of them casually floating in the air above the road – which is five more than the average number of mystics you will spot on a regular day in a no-nonsense city such as Mumbai.
The video for Hymn for the Weekend, the latest single from British rock band Coldplay’s new album, A Head Full of Dreams, has inexplicable montages featuring these Indian stereotypes – and also a guest appearance by Beyoncé.
Released on January 29, it is clearly meant to drum up interest in their joint performance at Super Bowl 50, the finale of the American football season on February 7, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
The four minute and 20-second video, directed by Ben Mor, features Coldplay frontman Chris Martin travelling across the city in taxis – or kaali-peelis (black-yellows) as they are fondly called by Mumbaikars.
We see him outside temples, in a theatre, in a rickety old boat and walking through overcrowded lanes.
Nothing wrong with any of that – that’s everyday life in Mumbai, and there are few visual representations that capture the spirit of the city better than the famous cabs, Bollywood obsession and the coastline.
Strangely, though, wherever Martin walks, he seems to be followed by children, all in the throes of Holi, a popular Hindu spring festival celebrated with coloured powder and water.
Even stranger is Beyoncé’s portrayal of a Bollywood actress – all flashy clothes, loads of jewellery, awkward headgear and, of course, hands decorated in henna.
The video ends with Beyoncé joining her hands in a “namaste”, and the word Coldplay appearing on the screen in Hindi.
Social-media commentators in India are not impressed. There were comparisons with Slumdog Millionaire, the Oscar-winning 2008 film that, despite its critical acclaim around the world, received its share of flak for its flat portrayal of India.
One Twitter user said: “Coldplay’s new video Hymn for the Weekend looks like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ had a holi sequence.”
Ahmed Ali Akbar from New York tweeted: “I don’t even know what to say about this Coldplay video, except can white rock bands please stop filming holi videos in India, thank you.”
The video also features Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. Her appearance surprised and disappointed many of her fans, considering the hype generated when it was announced that she would be starring in Coldplay’s next video.
There are a few seconds of Kapoor running, looking into the sky and throwing flower petals in the air – no explanations offered. She posted a link to the video on Twitter, writing: “A story to tell my grandkids! I was in a @Coldplay video! Woo hoo! #biggestfan.”
One fan responded with the tweet: “I blinked and your cameo was over!”
Another fan wrote: “You want to tell your grandkids that your career highlight was being in 3 shots of a firangi [foreign] song that misrepresented our India?”
The fine line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation is a debate that’s been gathering steam in recent years. Many international artists and celebrities have been criticised for perpetuating similar stereotypes of other cultures.
Iggy Azalea’s 2013 hit Bounce; Major Lazer, DJ Snake and Mø’s collaborative effort Lean On; and Coldplay’s Princess of China featuring Rihanna have faced criticism for similar reasons.
Coldplay and Beyoncé’s official Twitter accounts did not offer any response to the criticism of the video, which has racked up more than 14 million views on YouTube in the four days since it was released.
Updated: February 1, 2016 04:00 AM