Wednesday, September 22, 2021
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Our Cultural Identity As Shown In Coldplay’s Recent Video: Are We Ashamed of It?


By Shubham Goswami

Recently Coldplay along with Beyonce came up with its latest song themed on India: Hymn for the Weekend. Chris Martin and Beyonce Knowles teamed up to produce one star-studded affair in this one and could a music lover ask for anything better? No wonder the song hit 35 million views on YouTube within a week of its launch! But wait, no work of art achieves fulfillment until the real stars come into the picture.



Yes, the real stars. I am referring to the critics.

No. Not the literati who do it for a living. These guys are more like you and me. The self-appointed know-it-alls, who voice their valuable opinions on almost any issue.   And they do it through the 21st century’s biggest platform for critics, the social media.



Now poor them, why am I lampooning these innocent individuals?


Well, they just did what they always do. They expressed their opinions, that is. But hey, what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it good to hold an opinion on every issue? Isn’t that what all knowledgeable citizens should be doing?

That’s right. But these self-proclaimed critics were very vocal about something after the song release. In their opinion, Coldplay’s latest music video portrays India in poor light. They accused Coldplay of cultural appropriation and insensitivity. It’s a hue and cry similar to that which followed after Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire won those Oscars.



The song is a well-composed melody, featuring a man who seems to be praising an angelic person in his life, a force for good that gave him solace. The music video does feature levitating sadhus in Varanasi, impoverished ghettos, temples, street performers of Mumbai, makeshift theaters and so on. Sounds Third World- ish, does it?



How dare they? When will they get out of such stereotypes? A land of Sadhus? Snake Charmers? Oh wait, that’s not us. We are a developed nation, or at least, would like to revere as one. Ours is no longer a land of mystic princesses and arcane rituals. We’ve moved beyond those. We don’t play with the snake anymore. We’ve replaced it with the mouse, as our honorable Prime Minister once proudly said. Now we source manpower to Silicon Valley, start companies, build smart cities and bullet trains. Our youngsters don’t go on pilgrimage to Varanasi. They flock to Bangalore and Mumbai to work and drive the economy. This is not a place for Voodoo. This is a place for business, for FDI and FII inflows. Our economists can predict financial meltdowns, our astronomers send spacecrafts to Mars, our technocrats become CEOs of Fortune 500s. So why don’t these opportunists portray all the great things that we are doing? Why do they have to resort to the same old mystic stereotype? Petty marketing gimmick, Huh!  


Well, marketing gimmick or not, one thing’s for sure. Many of us Indians do not really want to associate our country with hoary sanyasis or devout pilgrims reciting mantras. Gone are the days when the Indian kid used to listen to mythological tales with rapt attention. Gone are the days when we fell back on horoscopes to know about our future or considered the astrologer’s prescription our diktat. Today the urban population in India is surrounded by glittering shopping malls, pristine housing complexes, chic private cars and all sorts of sophisticated electronic contraptions our forefathers could never have thought of. The story of India is a story of progress.


However, we cannot write off our mythology as a figment of the past. For mythology is woven into the fabric of our society. It is what has shaped our morals and values. It is what defines who we are. The same is true for other ancient civilizations like Greece and Egypt. To ride the tide of development, we cannot deny our cultural denouement. While progress will help us move towards a more egalitarian society, it is our cultural integrity that will help us sustain such a society.



Let’s also accept the fact that poverty exists in this country. Since independence, our leaders have waged a long-standing crusade against it. But it is yet to be eradicated. And if works of art do portray our poverty, we need not throw a tantrum every time. For it only betrays our insecurity about “The Real India”.



And most importantly every nation has a cultural identity. Let us not be ashamed of ours. It is the perception of India as a land of exoticism and divinity that has attracted outsiders for ages. We should be proud of it. There is no reason to put a “backward” label. In the race towards development, let us not forget our cultural identity. Let us not part with our Indian-ness.

Portrait of a boy with the flag of India painted on his face.

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