Bey’s collaboration with Coldplay, presumably to be debuted publicly at Superbowl halftime, is called “Hymn for the Weekend” and now has a video, shot in Mumbai, with a guest appearance from the beloved Punjabi actress Sonam Kapoor, of Bollywood fame. Directed by Ben Mor, it depicts street scenes and curious, probably skeptical onlookers as weird-ass Coldplay throws a show in their neighborhood, on the street.
This video hits some clichés about India that Westerners love to indulge, including the Holi reference so fetishized we’ve not only already seen it in an Iggy Azalea video, it’s featured in about 14 commercials. (Holi is a religious ceremony, though the Holi-associated chalk-throwing here is decontextualized from religious iconography.)
While white Britons in India is “never a good look,” as my Telugu partner succinctly put it, it is worth pointing out that neither she nor Coldplay are positioned as the powerful center in the same way both Iggy Azalea and Mø are the white loci amid brown women in their “Bounce” and “Lean On” videos.
That said, Bey obviously was not in India for the shoot, and it probably would have made this video at least a little less offensive to those who are offended by it if she were not centered as a sort of Bollywood star, when Kapoor, the actual Bollywood star—and one of the highest paid in India—is sort of wedged in at the end, her cameo too brief for an artist of such renown. Bey is wearing dupatta and mehndi—and traditional chains and face adornment reminiscent of the sort Givenchy appropriates again and again—and it doesn’t sit right with some, though others make the argument that a black American woman appropriating from Indian culture has less impact than a white woman doing the same. No matter where you sit on this issue, I’m sure we can all agree that that Eat Pray Love-ing and consistent exotification of an entire subcontinent is utterly draining, and the entirety of Western culture needs to learn some damn respect.
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