Hollywood and western pop culture is increasingly depicting Indian (rather Hindu) iconography in its art these days. Movies like Life of Pi have left a spiritual mark on the western audience but most often this pop culture panders to specific western taste and secularizes the rituals by taking them out of context. In the long list of false portrayals, ColdPlay came out with a mediocre song called ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ this year and it got famous on the back of the video they shot in India depicting Hindu life. Times have moved from outright contempt for Hindus as shown in movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ to subtle cues left in this video. Here is the video:
The video tries to portray Indian religion as a ‘colorful fancy culture’ as opposed to ‘true religion’. The west subtly tries to discredit Hindu religion by isolating the theological connotations from our customs by making it look like colours, song and dance. So Holi becomes a fancy festival of colours as opposed to the victory of Pralhad over Holika, Diwali becomes a festival of light as opposed to victory of Ram. Yogi becomes just another street performer, little Shiva becomes just another fancy dress, Varanasi becomes just another beach, saffron flag becomes just a rag on top of a stick and all the kids are malnourished. This is Slumdog Millionaire Ver 2.0, all they had to do was add a snake charmer scene and it would have been the wet dream of a racist evangelist. In any case the video still manages to push the Christian cultural agenda. If you notice in the end the kids are watching the projector images, which say “Maria Mata”, which in vernacular languages refer to Mother Mary. Have you seen a more subtle way of delivering gospel message?
Now watch that video again to understand the context. You will realize that Beyonce, (known by her fans as ‘the queen’) has postured herself as Maria Mata civilizing the exotic pagans who love song and dance and colours. She is trying to execute the white man’s burden (ironic, since she is a black woman and victim of white man’s burden herself!).
If Indians have to commit similar blasphemy, what would they have to do? Just to give an analogy, this video would be the moral equivalent of Rani Mukherjee going to the US, putting black paint on her face and picking cotton with the good old Negros on the plantation to ‘show the beauty of American culture’.
There are other nuances which are strategically placed to add context to the Holi, Diwali celebrations portrayed in the first half of the video. Of course no one expects them to explain Hindu festivals in a 5 minute video but the purpose of showing the celebrations, even though seemingly innocuous, ends up serving their agenda, nonetheless. The first 70% of the video is full of stereotypes dedicated to establishing to the western audience, the ‘Indianness’ of the subjects portrayed in the video (as the west sees it), which they use in the latter part of the video to reinforce their Christian iconography when they show those ‘die-hard Indians’ thronging to hear Mata’s message. It is an euphemism for the openness of all kinds of people to the grace of the gospel.
Although one can say that we are reading too much into the video but given western assaults on pagan Hindu traditions in the academia and elsewhere it is difficult to reject that it has not been done intentionally to pander to the populist views of the westerners. How could it be just a spontaneous co-incidence to find fancy dress Hanuman, Shiva, Holi, Sadhus? Do we really find all these in the streets in our day to day life? Unless of course their presence was arranged to aid the furtherance of a certain message and the message is: no matter how strong your native culture is, there will always be takers for ‘our message’. See the sublime iconography in this shot where hordes and hordes of full blooded Indians are thronging to hear the message (or gospel, if you may) which Maria Mata is here to deliver.
Probably the Church algorithm works in the following way. First come out with a diktat and when people oppose it, use propaganda to resist the people’s views as long as possible until the Church start losing adherents. But when they see that many are disobeying the diktat and the Church will lose a significant amount of followers if they don’t change, then they change. That is how they tackled the ‘problems’ of abortion and gay rights. They resisted as long as they could, but once they realized that the popular backlash was too strong and people were moving away from religion to pursue their individual interests, they made peace with it and the Pope came out in support of gay rights out of the blue. This itself belies their claim of being the ‘divine word of god’. Nothing divine about it if you keep changing it for political convenience. It’s just an extension of medieval feudalism adapted to modern day political organization. If you change your moral stance to retain followers and power then you have no moral stance. Retaining power IS your stance.
The ‘strategic thinkers’ in the Christian community see the pagan rituals as a threat and have copied their rituals from a very long time, Easter egg being prime example. Either they try to ban pagan rituals or appropriate/digest them in global culture. Now west has started copy-cat festival of colours called Color Run, in order to appropriate Hindu culture and take away our USP. The fact that they responded, and responded so fast, means that there IS probably a central thinker who IS keeping an eye on us and playing it like a chess game, unlike seculars who say “No, there is no Christian agenda. You are seeing too much”.
P.S. To add some insult the video also features 5 second clip of Sonam Kapoor. But may be she deserves this treatment for being hungry of appreciation from western mlecchas!