I was mulling over alternate professions I’d have taken/can take up and other such topics yesterday. I write this post on 3rd Feb. Today I got a hint from the Lady that I wanted to write on the Coldplay video and the talk around cultural appropriation last year.
How appropriate a topic, as Beyonce is in the news again this time of the year.
So here we are. The video in question is :
I had to watch it again to collect my thoughts. Let me tell you, a year is enough to change one’s perceptions/look at it from a different angle.
A lot of hype was made about Coldplay doing cultural appropriation.
I found the definition I find most accurate here :
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had.
There is a basic conflict between this definition and the way we Indians view ourselves. The popular notion is Indian culture has always been superior to the others (mainly Western – Western includes Europe, America, Australia and parts of Asia which are not a part of the Indian subcontinent).
So how can Coldplay be doing cultural appropriation if we are not a subordinate culture? Also, if we are the superior culture, are we culturally appropriating them when we wear their clothes or light candles in Churches? Rhetorical. Don’t bother. I am just messing with those out to pick reasonless arguments for arguments’ sake. (Read trolls)
All this said, what is my take on the video? Do I still not like it?
I understand where they are coming from. They have tried to incorporate everything that they found exotic with a touch of the retro and present day. The two tenses have become so mixed up that I don’t understand whether it’s intentional or inadvertent.
Those Kaleidoscopic shows, Beyonce and Sonam, the obsolete TV sets, the technicolor taxi irritate me. I like the Mandir shot, as I have always maintained.
To counter my own question about the mix up of the past and present, I’d like to mention that a lot of my peers and seniors (all Indians born and brought up in India) said that villages like the ones shown in Swades don’t exist anymore (then). Their argument was – it doesn’t happen that a village has no electricity or girls are not sent to school, etc, etc, etc. I was appalled by their distance from the ground reality. Having been brought up in a town surrounded by such villages and hamlets, and after a 2002 visit to Toranmal (a hill station housing tribes which transacted using barter system), I was well aware that the problems shown in Swades were very very real.
Having lived in a city since the last 14 years, do I belong to the same category, refusing to believe the existence of dated projector theatres and old TV sets? But hey, who says that the video claims they exist? Can it not be cinematic liberty? Not even that – an artistic expression?!
I don’t like the loud colours. Okay. That is my view. I cannot accuse Coldplay of added dramatisation, when our own Rohit Shetty uses prints like the 60s technicolour movies or perhaps a tacky Instagram filter in motion. He likes his neons. So does the director of this Coldplay video. Big deal. It doesn’t really count as cultural appropriation.
My store of reasoning has been exhausted. I have demolished my own points. However, I still don’t like it. Am I saying it because it is cool to not like which is popular with the ‘cool junta’? No. I know I am not saying it because it will grab me a few reverent glances for being the one that doesn’t give in to the West’s attempted pandering to Indian sensibilities. Niet. I have my reasons. I DON’T LIKE IT.
It is too confusing for me. I don’t get what they have tried to do. (Now am I saying I don’t like things I don’t understand?) Sheesh…how do I express myself?
I think it will suffice to say (like I said on Facebook) – I like these kind of videos more :
The video is coherent, makes sense to me, shows a foreigner(?) in Indian setting with all the stuff the Westerners consider exotic but is still realistic and reflects the times it is shot in.
If you have made head or tail of what I wanted to express in this rambling, please let me know in the comments.