There have been some mixed feelings about the new Coldplay video featuring Beyonce, so I thought I’d chime in considering I’m of East Indian descent. At first, I liked the video and thought the clothing was incredible. But as I thought more about it, I got a bit irritated. Beyonce shouldn’t have been front and center and all decked out in the Indian garb. Sonam Kapoor was positioned as a common Indian female when in reality she’s one of the biggest names in the Bollywood industry. Sonam’s outfit pales in comparison to Beyonce’s regal clothing. Sonam should’ve had Beyonce’s role. It’s as if they put her in the video to simply appease people like me. Beyonce was placed as unattainable; she didn’t even go to India for this shoot. She didn’t interact with the culture like Chris Martin did.
The video was set up in such a colonial fashion. Chris enters the scene and interacts with the commoners, placing him “above” them. As an East Indian American, I can tell you that this is a sensitive and serious issue. As a kid, I always felt like I didn’t belong because of the color of my skin. I felt disdain for my culture. Indians are extremely diverse in terms of careers, skin color and even subcultures. There are multiple film industries and 22 official languages and hundreds more–of which I only know two.
I don’t understand why India is always portrayed as having a sense of “desperate for the white man to come save us” kind of thing. The children are sitting on the floor in poverty while watching Beyonce on screen and revering her as if she is a divine figure. I think this video is a sort of blessing for my culture because it creates this type of dialogue. Indians don’t get much attention. We are stereotyped as curry-eating, bindi-wearing, funny accent-having computer scientists or terrorists. The use of holi has become so Americanized. It’s traditionally used to celebrate the Hindu religion, it’s not for color runs and music festivals. The use of a Sikh man as a cab driver is such a cliche. One cannot just go to a culture, pick the parts to appropriate and the parts to discard. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think everyone should stay away from other cultures. If one of my non-Indian friends is invited to an Indian wedding and wants to borrow a sari, I would be thrilled. This would be cultural immersion. On the other hand, if a friend wears a bindi to Coachella, I will internally roll my eyes.
Just as Taylor Swift has been ridiculed for her cultural appropriation, Beyonce and Coldplay should be as well. The song does not have any relevance to the Indian culture or the settings displayed in the video. But this video has provided a lens through which we can all voice our opinions and concerns regarding cultural appropriation.