The Internet let out a collective gasp when stills emerged from Coldplay’s new video for “Hymn for the Weekend” with Beyoncé. Most were mesmerized by the pop star’s smoky eyeshadow, gold lipstick and lighter blonde hair set against a floral background. But others took issue with the video’s blatant erasure of Indian culture.
Set in Mumbai, the Hymn for the Weekend video features fire breathers, holy men, temples, children playing Holi and spiritual shamans. Beyoncé stars as a Bollywood actress replete with a sari and henna, and Chris Martin sings while surrounded by Mumbai locals. After the video’s debut, a debate ensued about cultural appropriation.
Critics argued the video portrays India through the Western gaze. By focusing on just Bollywood, spirituality, poverty and Holi paint, “HFTW” robs Indian culture of its complexity. Dancing styles unique to North and South India are conflated. And Beyoncé, dressed up as a Bollywood star, enjoys a prominent role in the video while real life Indian actress Sonam Kapoor appears only briefly.
Coldplay faced similar backlash for the 2011 “Princess of China” video that egregiously conflated Chinese, Japanese and Hindu themes. Five years later, it seems Coldplay still hasn’t learned how to find inspiration in other cultures while giving them the respect they deserve. View the video below.