Alexx ONell’s ‘A Bhagwad Gita Song’ – Is It Culture Appreciation Or Appropriation?
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the…
While a lot of people are ecstatic that the American actor Alexx ONell took the pains to learn shlokas from the Bhagwad Gita and even made it into a song, I have been having some really queasy feels about it from the time I heard it.
Well for starters, let’s keep the fawning of him being an all-important American actor to the minimum. Alexx ONell has had cameo roles in a few Bollywood movies and has actually gained more fame as the husband of Indian TV actress Shweta Keswani (now separated).
His most recent venture was as Bob Wilson in the super successful Disney Hotstar series ‘Aarya,’ featuring Sushmita Sen in the central role. And this was basically the inspiration for him to make this song. (There is an original score of ‘The Bhagwad Gita Song’ for the series and it’s really good.)
The straight fact is that the shlokas of The Bhagwad Gita have been used in many movies, especially in Bollywood, to emphasize important moments and they are usually sung or rather recited in the form that makes your hair stand on ends. It’s powerful. It’s exhilarating. It stays with you.
So hearing it in the form of country music with highly accented Sanskrit feels simply ‘meh’… and if the video did not have lyrics with it, I doubt a lot of people would have actually understood what Alexx ONell was singing.
According to him, this is his tribute to the ‘Aarya’ team – the first project to feature him in the role of a musician, and the reason he encountered and studied Shrimad Bhagavad Gita in the first place; but it is also his “Thank You” to India.
Well, be that as it may, such things push us, again and again, to ponder if this really is the appreciation of our culture or is it simply another case of cultural appropriation. ONell has been quite passionate about the whole thing, going to the extent of mentioning that “these shlokas visit me at the most unexpected times, with such an inspiring and reassuring message that I felt compelled to set this poetry, in its original Sanskrit, to music.”
That’s exactly the point. Isn’t it? Shlokas should feel inspirational and uplifting. This song fails to do that and it seems simply like an attempt by the actor to keep his character alive even after it has run its course in the series.
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the world goes by, Pallavi is optimistic to a fault and believes in building her world on her own rather than depending on others to make things right.