A Music Video Will Naturally Show Exotica, Not Infrastructure Development

Roopak Saluja, who handled the production for Coldplay's new video shot in Mumbai says calling it cultural appropriation is ridiculous.

The man who handled the India-end of the new Coldplay video, Hymn for the Weekend is amused by the controversies surrounding it and calls them “ridiculous.” “It’s a music video, not a documentary—of course it will show exotica and not India’s infrastructure development,” says Roopak Saluja, CEO of The 120 Media Collective, which was the line producer in Mumbai during the making of the video.

The video, posted on YouTube on January 29, has already garnered over nine million views and has been almost totally filmed in Mumbai. It opens with a shot of a peacock and then moves on to sadhus, holi, a ride in the city’s famed kaali-peeli taxi, fishermen’s boats, Mumbai’s street life and even an old cinema — many of the exotic, and some say cliched, images of the city are very much there. Chris Martin sings in different locations, while Beyonce is seen on posters and on movie screens, starring in a film called Rani

While the general consensus has been favourable, critics have said it panders to the usual stereotypes about India in bright hues. “Cultural appropriation” is another charge that has been thrown at it, referring to the Indian finery worn by Beyonce, who makes an appearance in the 4 minute 20 second song. Indian actor Sonam Kapoor also plays a small part in it. The video has been directed by Ben Mor.

“These are images of India after all, what’s wrong with that? A video like this is not going to show airports, bridges and the like. Someone even said, why have they shown a single screen cinema and not IMAX, as though viewers anywhere care that India has IMAX,” says Saluja, whose company worked closely with the producers in identifying locations.

“The whole thing was shot in three or four days. Many locations were picked on the fly. If they looked colourful, they were shot. The sadhus on the street were visually interesting, so they were included” Saluja says while some have criticised it, large numbers of people have praised it for its aesthetic values. “But it’s the vocal criticism that gets amplified and then picked up by the media, Indian and international, which is always looking for such stories. Intriguingly, the taxi Martin rides in was designed by Pakistan artist Samiya Arif as part of an art project.

The idea for a Coldplay video in India was developed after lead singer Chris Martin’s visit to India last year, when he did an impromptu gig at a Delhi pub. While fans were enthralled, Martin fell in love with India and decided to film a video here. His team contacted Saluja and it was on.

There has been no official reaction from Coldplay but Saluja says the feedback from the fans has been overwhelmingly positive. “People have been appreciating the video for what it is and it’s a great song too.”

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