Hymn For The Weekend – Stereotyping India in Western Music Videos

With over 30 million views within a week of its release, ‘Hymn for the weekend’ – new music video by Coldplay stands pretty strong among the billboard contestants. As always as it has been, this video has a catchy abstract name which gets stuck into your head. As always it has the unique recognizable voice of Chris Martin & Beyoncé with compelling music score by Coldplay band. As always it has the mesmerizing shrillness of rock music. As always it has the profound compulsive chorus.

But one thing that stands out this time is its videography. It has been shot in Mumbai, India. It is certainly not among the usual shooting destinations of Coldplay. But it doesn’t just end at Coldplay – recently India has been favorite place for shooting International music videos (with Major Lazer & DJ Snake’s Lean On clearly topping that chart in popularity).

Yes it’s the same Mumbai that is probably the most developed among metropolitan cities of India. Mumbai, the economic capital of India, which is clearly getting swept away with westernization. Mumbai, where fashionistas and globalization impacts are heavily felt. Mumbai, the city of dreams & the Indian New York, where skyscrapers are gradually prevailing its empire. Mumbai, with its infamous shrinking slums stands firmly as an epitome of development.

mumbai_skyline_at_night

It’s Mumbai! Source – Wikimedia Commons

But among all these entities, how effectively were the video makers able to find the old customary elements, really left me amazed. I mean – how did they find the Bioscope wala wandering in this bustling crowd? How did they find the old wrecked cinema hall where people are coming to watch movies on rugged screens in the city that is home to PVRs and Multiplexes? How did they find the serene silent ruins of building amidst the shining corporate ones? How did they find the orange-clad sadhus roaming in this ultra-fashioned city (if it was entirely shot in Mumbai) smoking chillum?

The impersonators imitating Hindu Gods, children playing Holi (festival of colors) and gorgeously appareled Sonam Kapoor are some other catches of this video. Talking about her– she is certainly tracing her father’s footstep to have short roles in foreign videos. In this one, she barely makes a significant appearance where Beyoncé dominates the major part alongside the singer. But that’s not upon me to comment and I respect whatever she choose to do with her acting career.

Even if the producers were able to find these, why did they themed the entire video upon it? The whole video portrays India the same as it has been, for the umpteenth time. Why is it that the International artists focus on this just another facet of India, clearly ignoring the rest? These videos are not seen in private, they go viral within hours. They’re made by artists who have humongous International fan following. And what impression does this leave on the viewers? They already had this under-developed image of our country and watching such things, their impression is bound to stay the same.

I really liked the way this Quartz article has covered the whole thing.

I clearly don’t mind featuring this aspect of India. In fact on a positive note, I really liked the way they have portrayed a vibrant colorful India. The way they’ve shown the temples, lights & joy gives a positive aura to the video. But that couldn’t keep me off from noticing the clichéd picture. This is part of our tradition – India consists of all this but is it the only aspect to focus on? Absolutely not. Just because others did and they were a hit, will repeating the similar picture ensure your success?

There have been major rage among media regarding this video and it also somewhere moved me too. I don’t think this tiny blog post would emphasize it much further but I do want to address it.

Show the beautiful valleys & magnificent forts. Show the brimming crowd and peaceful lands. Show the impounding lakes and dancing fields. Show the delicious cuisines, mouth-watering food or show people of every mood. Show whatever you’ve shown so far but don’t restrict yourself to only that. Let the viewers experience the mysteriously treasured India. Let them feel its vibrancy and air of welcomeness sitting in some other part of the world.

On an off-topic note, I’ve something for music lovers who has read this far.

I recently came across this Ohio, US based band called ’21 Pilots’ while checking the recent billboard top 100 chart. Their song ‘Stressed out’ is currently at no. 3 behind JB’s ‘Sorry’ and ‘Love yourself’. They mostly play in alternative hip hop, electropop and Indie pop genres but people come with their own custom names like schizophrenic pop after seeing their videos.

twenty_one_pilots_logo

21 Pilot’s Logo – try to guess whatever it means!

What’s special in them? Well let’s say I’ve never seen something so consistently peculiar besides Saturday Night Live (I’m huge fan of this humorous show). The crazy extents that they go upto in their music videos will leave you awestruck.

Moreover their logo is intriguingly abstract. Tyler Joseph, its lead singer, when asked about the logo, told it stands for nothing particularly unique but for the uniqueness of knowledge of something confined to oneself. It’s a encouragement for people to create.

I would totally recommend this band to the readers, as I’ve already done to my friends, to go and check their music videos atleast once. I’m sure you will be mesmerized with the ways they shot their videos if not particularly with their music genres.

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3 thoughts on “Hymn For The Weekend – Stereotyping India in Western Music Videos

  1. Hey, not wanting to sound rude but I really have to point out an essential fact that is probably a rebuttal to your case. This is NOT A documentary on the life of an Indian. This is an art form and it was the band’s choice to include these scenarios, which are unique to our culture (there is no denying). They were intrigued by our festivals, Holi here, and how the uncountable sadhus, in every region, choose to live and pray. We must not forget that very much like the name of the song itself, this video projects a celebratory mood and why should we deny the fact that festivals like Holi and the plays where children dress like like gods resound as celebration to us. Not you specifically,but to the very visible population of our country. Art should be granted free expression and the and artist should be given the opportunity to present to the world what intrigues him most, without judgement. Only then will art flourish like it actually should. Moreover, we should be proud that instead of portraying lies screen, Coldplay gave life to a feature very characteristic to our culture, which was until a few years ago in fact, very true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ritika! Thanks for your opinions about this blog post. Addressing your points –
    – Never did I write that the video was meant to be a documentary on Indians
    – Never did I criticized their music video or any art form that features India in general
    – Never did I comment on the freedom of expression of anyone (person or band for that matter)
    – Never did I say that I disliked the video. In fact I praised it in the very first paragraph.
    – Never did I say that they projected lies. If shot in India, whatever they show, would be true about India. They certainly won’t create a western scene here.

    I loved whatever Coldplay has portrayed in their video. I’ve been complimenting it in my blog post (if you read carefully) and will recite here again. Yes they’ve shown festive celebratory mood of India. Yes they’ve shown the culture which is truly unique to our country. The post was aimed at throwing light on this cliched picture.

    I inserted the link for the Quartz article (http://qz.com/606617/coldplay-goes-off-tune-with-its-cliched-weekend-hymn-for-india-but-its-not-the-only-one/) in between, if you read that. It beautifully covers the whole issue. There is more in India than whatever is shown on screen. Not talking about this Coldplay video but for all those gone-viral videos shot in India.

    Look at Iggy Azalea’s ‘Bounce’. After watching this video, my reaction was – what the hell is this? And I was certainly angry about the way they’ve pictured it. I condemn it. I wanted to address this stereotyping issue and ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ just fell into place (or probably fueled my eagerness to write about it). Hope you understand now!

    Thanks again for stopping by and keep visiting 🙂

    Like

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