HomeCultureOrientalist for the Weekend: The British Are Back

Orientalist for the Weekend: The British Are Back


Coldplay and Beyonce’s newest music video, Hymn for the Weekend, does a fantastic job of reinforcing western views on India’s exotic culture and people, and making millions while at it.

This is not about political correctness or being overly sensitive. This is much, much worse than just cultural appropriation; this is orientalism. This is about whiteness invading, defining, and selling OUR INDIA.  This is about claiming our right to own the representation of OUR INDIA. This is about being fed up with the West framing the discussion of OUR INDIA.


Orientalism is the viewing of non-Western cultures through a Western lens, specially when it aids the West’s claims for colonizing and imperialism. What does that mean exactly? It means that the West portrays the East as exotic, backwards, and singular. It ignores the reality of the East in favor of a simpler and more favorable (for the West) picture of the East.


The video brings India to the spotlight of Western culture, which some are arguing is a good thing. However, India is brought to the spotlight on the terms a British band sets for her. This is not the India that over a billion people live in. This is the India of the West’s fantasy.

It is too easy to portray India as a country lost in colors and dreams and then advocate for modernizing it with the aid of the oh-so-helpful West. Or perhaps, they want to keep us this way so we can serve to be there destination of choice for spiritual enlightenment.

The entire portrayal of India buys into the narrative that has been framing the discussion over India ever since the British first came to India. The video shows Bollywood, Holi, peacocks, ruins, saadhus, classical dancers, and mendhi. The song portrays India as the ideal location of intoxicated abandon and spiritual bliss. The song shows a man dancing in the slums of India, backwards cameras, run-down movie theaters, and boys swimming in their underwear. This narrative is just too familiar for Indians to be proud of having their country represented in this light.

They ignore the fact that India is made up of a multitude of cultures and religions. The video doesn’t portray the Muslim heritage of India, ignores the source of the Kerala Kathakali, Tamil Bharatanatyam, Rajastani Puppet Dancers, and mixes it all together as Exotic Hindu India. It doesn’t bother to highlight the scientific achievements, architectural accomplishments, or daily life of Indians, in the slums, bungalows, villages, and houses.


The problem here isn’t just that some western people came in and danced in India. It’s that with their dance they brought in the Western media and decided how India would be seen. We are barely re-affirming our identity in our own terms in the past 70 years; this is a step backwards from that work. The irony of a British band stealing that from us can’t be lost on the public. We do not exist for your pleasure and we are not as exotic, singular, and backwards as you want to believe. You are welcome to come visit, but please don’t come to poach our culture.

Previous post
Balaknama: A Step Forward
Next post
A Stereotype Portrayed "Beautifully": Desi For The Weekend