Oh Coldplay, you tried so hard. I empathize, really I do. But your latest song has left a bitter after taste that may affect my (previous) undying love for you. My initial excitement about the video (omg, shot in India!) soured into disappointment and confusion. I had a huge moment of cognitive dissonance after watching it. I love Coldplay, yet how could I hate their new video?
The cultural appropriation barely bothered me, Beyonce can wear mehndi and the ridiculous jewelry on her face all she likes. It was the objectification of so called ‘Indian culture’ that really annoyed me.
Here are some screen shots of the video.
Shiva? Hanuman? How exactly did you choose these deities? Most popular? Most relevant? LOL. You shot in Mumbai and forgot Ganpati (the most popular deity in Mumbai) for God’s sake. It just proves to me that there was zero thought process behind the video. The priority was ‘ooh look pretty!’ or ‘ooh look, exotic!’. This would be okay except for the fact that this is not your culture to try and depict in a cute little video. In fact, it is a culture of many faiths and beliefs. It’s a complex, vibrant, contradictory, rich, poor, messy, beautiful, wonderful country that you have reduced to generic temples, kids in Hindu God costumes, colored powder, slum children, and levitating sadhus.
To put it in perspective. This is like an Indian making a video to celebrate American culture and filling it with images of only hamburgers, cowboys, (murdered) ‘red’ indians and the empire state building. The difference is that you, Coldplay, have done this to a civilization that is thousands of years old and is grappling with serious issues like poverty and building its economy. You did this to a country that has spent a lot of its history being oppressed by the same civilization that is now trying to ‘celebrate’ it by a patronizing ‘Oh look how exotic and colorful’ video.
Remember, people. Context is everything. Is there any in this video? Haha, Sorry, but no. Let’s move along…
Holi/Slum screen shot
I have a big problem with white people from developed countries coming to Mumbai and filming happy, dancing slum kids. Again, let’s talk about context. What are you trying to depict Mr. Director? No, really. Tell me. Because I cannot fathom the logic behind these scenes. If you say that you are trying to celebrate the happiness and humanity of these kids, I will SCOFF. Because you’re really not. The point of these shots is to show how cool YOU are; Being amongst these strange creatures who seem to be happy even though they’re dirt poor. ‘Look, guys! We’re just like them! Let’s play music and throw Holi colors ( even though it was not Holi the time you were filming) all around so we look the same.’
Another shot :
Yes, let’s celebrate how happy these kids are! Isn’t it strange how they smile and laugh even though they’re from a slum? Wow, we have so much learn from them, fellow #white people! All your shallow, one sided video has done is to further ‘otherise’ these kids from the viewers. White washing ( haha) the fact that these children suffer real problems like malnutrition, drug addiction, violence etc. is not ethical. I’m not saying don’t show them as happy kids. A lot of them are. But if you choose to include them in a video, it is your responsibility to depict them as realistically as possible, and not just as props. For e.g. a good way would be to show them happy and playing cricket, or happy and going to school or happy and helping their parents, or happy and saying no to drugs.
Also, wtf is this? Is this Varanasi or Mumbai? The number plates on the car behind say MH02 ( Mumbai) but you sure could’ve fooled me. This is not a normal thing to witness in Mumbai. How much did you pay to have these guys here? Or did your guides forget to mention that this is severely out of place in a big city? Something more realistic would be to shoot -I can’t believe I’m saying this – cows. If you want to use babas in your video, why don’t you show them doing something else instead of levitating. Levitating, for God’s sake ( I can’t even)! As hard as it for you to believe, India is not only a bigger, fetishized version of Banaras.
I don’t care how pretty your shot is. When you are trying to ‘celebrate’ a culture, you don’t choose the most stereotypical visuals, dramatize them ( all this shot did was remind me of Aishwarya Rai running in Devdas) and spew them all over your reel. Especially when you come from the dominant, more powerful culture. Why is this so hard to understand Mr. Director?
Some more examples of “Ooh, look Pretty!” that do absolutely nothing but to serve as a exotification and objectification : I take particular umbrage to the second one. This child is supposedly on a busy Mumbai street. LOL. Funny, I’ve only ever seen that in carnivals in Rajasthan.
Why are these cute little girls dancing Bharatnatyam on a terrace? Who cares? We have to include some sort of dance, so lets just randomly add a shot of them in our video with no context whatsoever.
Oh, and this shot ( amongst others) :
Yes, the colors are very pretty and the cinematography, wah bhai, wah! . However, you make the city/country look like a RSS (a right wing political party) wet dream rather than the inclusive, diverse place that it is. India is not only stereotypical Hindu culture. Yes, I went there. Where are the Muslims and the Jains and the Sikhs ( the taxi wala doesn’t count) and the Catholics and the Parsis ? Where are the shots of churches and mosques and temples side by side and coexisting?
The only thing I can conclude is this : If you really did want to celebrate Indian culture, you would celebrate its diversity. You would include people of all faiths, you would try and depict it’s wide economic gap, its 300 million strong middle class, its contradictory nature.. I could go on.
Maybe it’s too much to ask from you, Coldplay. After all, maybe your video is exactly what you took away from your visit : Pulp Hinduism, sadhus, Holi colors, two dimensional slum kids, and temples. And maybe that is exactly why I was so disappointed. I held you to a higher standard than white tourists who visit India for their ‘holiday’. Honestly, I thought even the video for ‘Lean on’ was better.
If you really want to know how to shoot a video in India, here are some non objectifying videos you can learn from :
Oh yeah, i almost forgot. Fuck off, Coldplay.