Even as Indians worldwide were over the moon on the success of Slumdog Millionaire (2008) at the box-office and the Oscars, there were voices loud and strong criticising the movie for exploiting and exaggerating its poverty. (Example) A movie shot in India featuring some of our favourite Bollywood actors is fine, but hey, what made them think they can show the dismal living conditions of slums in that movie!
The criticism of Coldplay’s video of their latest number Hymn for the Weekend, rings the same bells. They may not be criticised for glamourising poverty but are being condemned for cultural appropriation.
What the critics forget in their rage is that this is just a video – imagined by someone to be a play of colours of India. It may be an exaggeration, but so what? It is not a documentary. It is not a news story. It is not a feature film based on true events. It is just a creative expression. Why can’t we just let it be?
At least they had the sense to use Devanagari script, which is ignored by the media in its own motherland is in favour of Roman script. Why can’t we appreciate it for that? Why can’t we appreciate their creative power to seek colours and happiness in parts of Mumbai which many of the vocally critical patriots will find too uncool to step in.
This is in sharp contrast to the video by Danish State Television which on the face of it mocks its own country and people, but has generated a huge positive response from its citizens.
Why? Because just a few seconds into the video you will know that it is a tongue-in-cheek introspective video that is aimed at minimizing the flak the country has received for the controversial migrant assets bill. It takes a matured sense of humour to take it.
Its not that we Indians don’t laugh at ourselves or can’t look at ourselves critically. We are just overly sensitive when it is done by Western media. This is seen equally in positive stories whether it is our Bollywood beauty Priyanka Chopra making it big in Hollywood, or our Prime Minister Modi’s coverage in foreign media.
Meanwhile, it is perfectly fine for Indian movies to stereotype Western countries and for Indian celebrities to wear western dresses and speak accented English. But just don’t show us the side of our country we want to avoid, ok?