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The New Coldplay Video With Beyonce And Sonam Kapoor, Just Made Me Go ‘Why’!

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By Rohini Banerjee


That was the only thought that ran through my mind as I watched internationally-acclaimed, grammy-winning band Coldplay’s latest music video, Hymn For The Weekend. The video—hich got over two lakh views within only an hour of it being uploaded—is set in India, and has Beyonce (yes, the same Beyonce who we thought was a beacon of all things feminist and progressive) playing a Bollywood actor called ‘Rani’. If that doesn’t make you cringe already, wait for it. The video exoticizes India to a disturbing extent and takes cultural appropriation to a whole new level.

The video begins with a shot of peacocks and then follows up with a shot of a bunch of saadhus decked in full saffron garb—because, of course, that’s the only way one can establish that this is supposed to be set in India. But why stop there when you want to culturally appropriate? Coldplay really goes all out and pulls out every stereotype about India that they can think of—temples, poverty, half-naked boys jumping into the Ganga, a child dressed as Shiva, yogis randomly meditating on the streets, firebreathers, classical dancers, Diwali-style fireworks, Sonam Kapoor running around in a lehenga for no discernible reason (seriously, WHY) and most prominently—Holi. There are people playing Holi and dousing each other with colour throughout the video, making it seem like that’s all what Indians do, every hour of every day. If that’s not messed up, I don’t know what is.

Not only is this a blatant misrepresentation of our country and its culture, it is also projecting to the world that India is this poverty-ridden, ever-celebrating country full of religious and traditional people. This is not what India is all about, and Coldplay would have realized that if only they had bothered to find out more about what actually goes on in the country, and how it is a complex entity full of multiple identities and mediums of expression.

And trying to pass off Beyonce as a Bollywood actor—the very idea is so absurd that I cannot fathom how it even crossed the minds of the makers. She sports blonde hair, and wears an outrageously exaggerated version of what they thought was Indian clothing (but was actually far from it) complete with a monstrosity of a head-cum-face-gear, and calls herself ‘Rani’ (spelled in Hindi, to add that extra cherry on top of the pie of problematic tropes). ‘Why‘, I kept thinking, and came up with no answers. Why would Beyonce, someone who has repeatedly spoken up about social justice issues—including, might I add, questions of race—play an Indian woman, and collude to this blatant misrepresentation of our culture. Racism is not always white people versus people of colour; and as this video proves, people of colour can also participate in racism.

This trend of cultural appropriation in international music videos is not a new phenomenon. The video of last year’s breakout EDM hit, ‘Lean On‘ (by Major Lazer, Mo and DJ Snake) created controversy due to its problematic depictions of India, and Taylor Swift’s video for ‘Wildest Dreams‘ also drew criticism for its messed up exoticization of colonial Africa. This has almost become the new white man’s burden—to travel to formerly colonized countries, fetishizing their poverty and harmful stereotypes, while ignoring their positive and progressive aspects; making it seem like that they’re doing our cultures a favour by highlighting it in their videos. But it’s high time this trend ends.

International artists need to stop misrepresenting our cultures and misusing it to make money and fuel their personal careers—especially artists like Coldplay and Beyonce, who are idolized across the globe. The internet has already started registering its backlash against the video, and twitter user Sneha Menon Saadhu aptly summed up the whole issue in a tweet by saying: “No thanks for the bundle of stereotypes Coldplay. No wonder then that #India will be known as the country of snake charmers & sadhus.” It’s slightly horrifying that it’s 2016, and yet all these problematic stereotypes about India continue to be perpetuated through Western media.

In the meanwhile, all we can do is question and challenge such notions and keep hoping that more celebrities like Aziz Ansari and Mindy Kaling come into the limelight and show the world that Indians are so much more than this.

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  1. Irate pirate

    Just saw the video. Couldn't see any evidence of racism or derogatory depiction. It's a music video about an angel. It's not a documentary on India. And if the author hasn't seen those things in India, I suggest they move out of their cloistered city dwellings and travel through rural India. It's beautiful, it's colourful, it's happy. And yes, it's mostly poor. India isn't just Ambani, and Birla and TATA and ISRO. The majority of us are lacking in opportunity. Let's stop whinging and taking offence at irrelevant stuff and start fixing things

  2. Puja Wahi

    Rohini, what you say makes so much sense. When I see foreign tourists wearing Indian clothes while sightseeing in India or even back in their native land, I don't think appropriation. In fact I know a few white and black people who have permanently made India home and live like legit Indians and even then I don't think appropriation. But, someone from another culture putting out a “glamorous” distorted version of Indian culture with the (extremely disturbing and fake) face jewelry and weird writhing around just to grab eyeballs? That sure feels like appropriation. Maybe the difference is in keeping it classy? And not pretending like you're some brown desi diva. To clarify, I don't think Beyonce and Coldplay woke up one day and decided to appropriate Indian culture. I'm sure this was a creative collaborative process with Indians involved. I just don't think it was done very well and the entire team could have done better. I never quite understood what the fuss about “cultural appropriation” was about, but I get it when I see it being done to my own culture. Beyonce, the Indian movie star, “Rani”. That is offensive to me as an Indian because the visuals were so outlandish and ridiculous. If you want to play a part, at least try to be authentic. Or don't try to play a part. Just be surrounded by the culture, be yourself, and look like you are an outsider immersing yourself in something.

  3. Jivesh Juneja

    And so what is the right depiction of India? Just wanted your thoughts.

  4. Vaibhav Manocha

    I will try to answer your 'Whys'. Beginning with the opening scene depecting sadhus which you strongly believe is because that is the only way to connect with India. Well, rightly said that may not be the 'only' way but then that is one of the ways ans I find nothing wrong in that. Don't we actually have sadhus meditating for a major part of their life to enlighten themselves , moksha prapti as it is referred to. India is the birth place of religions like Bhuddhism and Jainism. What is the social media creating a fuss about this. We need to accept that their is a section amongst us who believe that mediation is the way to liberate themselves. This act being right or wrong is another debate in itself.

    Shouldn't we be proud to see our classical dancers in an international music video. Like what is wrong in this ? Don't you find Kathakali and baratnatyam appealing ? Actually we should be glad that they didn't feature our very (in)famous Yo Yo Honey Singh.

    Given that India wants to develop as a new soft power much like Singapore and Japan, I strongly believe that showing people doing yoga (accepted shouldn't have been random) is the way forward. We have to start cherishing our history and culutre and show it to the whole world that this is what we are accept us if you like we are least concerned if you judge us. Countries like Japan and Singapore have stood by their own culture and traditions and a succefull soft power I international corridors.

    No doubt we have evolved over time and replaced or more likely forgotten Bharatnatyam with hip hop, classical music with edm and pop, sitar with a guitar, ganja with stash to say the least. We should stand by what we are and be happy when someone tells the world about it rather than cribbing about it and trying to impose foreign culture on us.

    1. Roxanne D’souza

      The mudra Beyonce attempted with her hands is a process and takes years of training. As appealing as it is visually, it's not right for her to appropriate and fake.

    2. OK

      Bollywood stars do the same thing in dance sequences and many of them have not once took a classical dance course. So you want a non Indian to respect the time and training it take when Indians don't do it themslves. Also stop using the word appropriate so loosely when you don't even know what it means. It is not just simply doing something that is found in other cultures, it is taking ownership of it and divorcing it from the community. If there is one Indian thing that is being appropriated by the west is Yoga, not hand movements.

  5. Tasneem

    What an excellent video portraying India in a beautful light – kudos to Coldplay & Beyonce whilst this article is nonsense and shows the lack of intelliengce and naivety of the inexperienced writer.

  6. Tasneem

    What a naive and ridiculous article by an unexperienced and unitelligent writer! Brillaint musical video capturing the beatury of India, kudos to Coldplay and Beyonce!

  7. ak

    Bollywood actor Rani? Actress? Stopped reading then..
    Is there anything in the world that does not offend you..
    Why? did u write such an article..Why?

  8. Karman

    THAAAANK YOU! Finally a sensible review of this horrendous video. So sick of the idiots on the internet loving the video!

  9. Apoorv Swarup

    This was shot in Bombay. Fact: over 60% of Bombay lives in slums in unfathomable conditions!! it would be a downright depressing video if they even tried to do an 'accurate representation' of people in Bombay and they neither call it that. It is a music video which has artistic elements (the prerogative of the representation lies with the artist) and not a friggin documentary which is supposed to impress you in particular. Don't like the video don't watch it, please refrain from dissing on it on an absurd rationale.

  10. Shubhangi Negi

    I'm going to real creative and say this…
    Your article is full of shit.

  11. Shubhangi Negi

    I'm going to be real creative and say this… Your article is full of it.

  12. Parvathi

    I don't understand the reason for why this video should be considered as a 'summary' of life in India. Honestly, people find reason to hate and criticize every thing these days. Why be intolerant towards a music video as any aware person in this world would surely know that Indians don't walk about throwing color at each other every day. And if they don't, then its purely their ignorance and not Coldplay's fault.

  13. Tanya

    Haha, one of the most click desperate articles I've ever read. Unfortunately for the author, all the things in the video ARE a big part of Indian culture, whether or not they're a part of your experience of it. Cultural misappropriation is far, far more serious than a video showcasing bits of India that you haven't seen/don't like to be associated with. Just because you personally think that the subcultures of a few cities are more valuable than the country's long standing traditions, and you like to pretend that crippling poverty doesn't majorly exist here – do not trivialize an actual problem.

  14. utkarsh

    the video is beautiful. I hate beyonce. Youre looking to get offended. go hate or criticize something thats actually harming the world. Please just go ahead and give me one idea. just one that makes you think would make this video more culturally or politically correct. and for the record, we all know the societal divide here is one of the most jarring in the world . and a music video like this, it makes absolute and perfect sense for him to go ahead and just use our surroundings (and where the charm is) to motivate him or make it look pretty or whatever it seeks to do. Its not about whether its right or wrong. what do yu want him do,. come and shoot in the high rise buildings ? if thats the case you should disregard or boycott any music video made in spain or italy or africas or south america or even new york because hey. THEY ARENT SHOWING NY'S TRUE COLORS. IM OFFENDED. your article is jerking off on being morally indignant over some little bug in your head. get over it.

  15. Adit Singh

    Have you travelled through India ever in your life ? Have you seen India ? We are a poverty stricken nation. We are super religious. We do have sadhus meditating in the middle of roads. Just because you live in a bubble doesn't mean that the rest of India lives in this bubble.
    Secondly, can you at all interpret what the video is trying to say ? No. And because you cannot understand it, you will become overly critical of it. I would also really like to hear your opinion on how India should be shown.

    Lastly, this wasn't a video made for charity or for promoting Indian tourism, it is a video made for a specific song to earn profits and share their art.

  16. UMMMM

    Amy Jackson, a white woman who barely looks like an Indian woman and cant speak any Indian languages, acts as an Indian woman in Hindi and Tamil movies and none of you say a damn thing . But the minute a black woman does it in a music video(even though her features are closer to the real thing) all of a sudden its a problem. lol Also i don't think you know what cultural appropriation is. It is not simply wearing another cultures clothes , it is taking someone's culture and separating it from the community it came from. Like with what white people did with Rock and roll.

  17. Palkush

    I call this article Bullshit! This is not cultural misappropriation! Since when did music videos require to stick to “realist” footage. The video is nothing but artistic depiction of what the bands experience in India would be. If you've known any foreigners visiting India, they would describe their experience is full of color and surprises and a lively atmosphere at all public gatherings. As an artist, Coldplay has depicted that perfectly with what goes with their music. They are not filmmakers they are musicians and as musicians they have done a great job!

  18. Sayantan

    We see the same stereotype in every Karan Johar or Yash Raj movie but we don't feel insulted. But then why would a firangi do the same! Cultural appropriation! Are you serious! We shouldn't wear jeans, skirts, baseball caps etc. altogether if cultural appropriation comes into play. You saw the cultural misappropriation, poverty, stereotypes but failed to notice the celebration of life with colours in the land of spiritualism.

  19. Kashef

    Cultural appropriation has real consequences along socioeconomic lines- and artists must be willing to show their loyalty to the people whose culture they profit from, because otherwise that's not appropriation- it's exploitation. Yes, the music video is problematic, but for reasons different from what the author is pointing to. I think this video captures the visual experience of being in certain sections of India in an almost flattering way. Contrary to what the author is saying, it's honest. It sucks that Beyonce has to be on a movie screen because the streets aren't safe for Western women. The videographers are not here to show you everything about India, because they're not representatives for India. They focused on the things they appreciated- which is saying much more than certain elitist authors who call out “misrepresentation” because everything's black and white and they don't have the capability to have a healthy humanistic view of their culture.

  20. Anupriya

    Your points are valid and most of the times Westerners portray this side of India only in their videos, remember the furore Slumdog Millionaire caused. Yet, they can defend themselves by talking about artistic freedom! Every person has their own way of interpreting things and may like to present a subject as per their best judgement. So we can't blame artists for that because they are merely showing what appeals to them.

    The modernised India is something which they have seen in their countries too so doesn't make sense to capture that part! And, the things shown in the video are a part of our country and its not that they are making something up. One point to note here is the poverty shown in such videos that really appalls me! Because they will never show the bad side of Western world, which is also struck by poverty & begging to a large extent.

    In the end, to each his own. Every person is entitled to his/her opinion and I like the points put across by you.

  21. Mutasim Billah

    To be honest, it's reading this article that made me cringe.

    This is art. A medium of self-expression that exercises freedom of imagination. An artist does not bear the responsibility of presenting a culture or country in its true image. What he does is present HIS vision and HIS version of the world around him. Whatever has been shown in the video is an artistic piece that takes from elements of a country or culture and infuses that with creative thinking. It's not as if these things do NOT happen in India. They do. It's only that it is a videographer's own way of delivering the band's thoughts and themes from the things about India they love. I believe Bollywood does the same thing when they shoot a film overseas and show random white women in the street dancing with the hero and cooperating in the “wooing of the heroine” process. In real life, that doesn't happen in America or Britain EVER, does it?

    If I have to speak from my personal experience, I'm a creative portrait photographer. Since I'm not a journalist, my job is not to create a verbatim representation of the person being photographed. The end result may look nothing like the subject, and the subject may not even necessarily like it. But it can become art nevertheless, because I have the freedom as an artist to take elements around me that inspire me and catch my attention and then create something intimately, uniquely my OWN out of it.

    If anything, the Coldplay video got two reactions out of me: Must attend the Coldplay concert in Stockholm this summer, and must visit India once in my lifetime!

  22. Digvijay Gahtory

    Truly said, India is a complex entity. A world within a world. But is it not great that still some people on the outside do have a cultural fetish that they wish to be fulfilled by visiting this country. Should this Coldplay video have been filled with snapshots of young Indians running around to their jobs everyday in and out. Or of the millions of the Delhiites commuting each day to their jobs and returning back with none of that cultural energy that defined our society and has been represented quite well in the video. To be fair, the video does generalize our culture to a large degree but it does show us in a good light. It's hard to comprehend the artistic theme that Coldplay wanted to present in this video. He may have been fascinated by the India that exists in textbooks and he does have every right to portray it in any form he wishes. The person watching the video should know better to not take it for its literal value. Moreover, there is nothing cooler than watching Beyonce dressed as a B grade Bollywood actress. Is it not great that even after a upgradation of our cultural identity by the advancing humanity, we are still viewed as a hub of cultural activity which unfortunately is not so much of a case any more. I believe its better for India to be viewed by outsiders as a land of celebrations than that of rampant industrialization, pollution, poverty and above all, no safety.

  23. Soumya Banerjee

    India is now filled with pathetic driveling professional 'offendees', folks who go round hard wired to react to everything because their lives are so meaningless without something to complain about. We should be ashamed of what we have become !
    The brilliant video shows colors, monks, kids playing, dancing and enjoying, flowers, diving into waters, village fairs etc.
    Yes, that's INDIA…!!! But, Rohini, you have every right to be over-sensitive and you know what, you are probably in the majority.

  24. Siddharth

    Get a life and stop being such a sadist.

  25. Trisha Puniani

    As an Indian, I understand your sentiments and where you're coming from. But my question to all the critics is… Why Not? What is wrong with portraying temples, poverty, holi, firecrackers, Sonam Kapoor and even Beyonce as 'Rani'? Are you trying to say that these things are not true about our country? Are you trying to say that because there are other things in our country, these aspects suddenly don't matter anymore? And lastly, what's wrong with Beyonce's interpretation of Indian attire? I think it was a beautiful ensemble and she looked absolutely stunning in it. Not just that, her vocals have definitely given a distinct edge to the music and she deserves to be in the video in whichever way she likes.

    Do you think that the US or more broadly the western culture that is portrayed in our country encompasses all of the culture here? Not in my opinion. As an individual who has lived in US for two years now, this is my message to all of my peers back in India – the US is much more than it is portrayed in our part of the world. Now does that make us indifferent? I don’t think so. We portray what we know and most importantly, what appeals to us. Similarly the western world portrays what they perceive and what appeals to them.

    My request is respect the western world’s interest in our culture and our country. I understand you would like them to explore more, but this is certainly no way of doing that. I’m sure our powerful youth can find more ways of educating this part of the world about the endless treasures that our country has to offer.

  26. Surprisingly Irritated

    Wow, this article is extraordinarily stupid. I bet there doesn't exists a better use of the phrase: 'making a mountain out ofba molehill'.

    For all purposes, Coldplay has made this video for their music. They're not shooting a documentary to potray the entire view of India. And I think they hoped that viewers of the video would have a certain level of sense to not generalise the entire country of India based on their few minutes.

    If you're the kind of person who thinks a 5 minute video shot for a song by a band is the correct representation of an entire country, please go ahead and support the weird assumptions of this author.

  27. jason

    You need to calm down, its just a video

  28. jason

    You need to calm down, its just a video, and by no means racist

  29. Sankalp

    Things shown in the video are only some part of our culture.
    Video is beautiful and “Rohini Banerjee” ,you are stupid.

  30. Nayantara

    Mindy Kaling is NOT a good example here. She represents Bombay in an EXTREMELY stereotypical way in her show. It verges on disgusting ESPECIALLY because she is of Indian origin and should know better.
    Another thing is, Indian videos constantly and RANDOMLY have caucasian people in them. What is that about?!
    Both this video and Lean On may be ridden with cultural appropriation but how about we celebrate the fact that Lean On has dark skinned dancers (something you'd RARELY find in Indian videos to this day) and Coldplay's video is actually cinematographically quite beautiful.

  31. Roxanne D’souza

    You know I keep shaking my head at the people who get angry because I was irritated with the way my country or I should say my city was depicted in this video.
    Beyonce was the least of my worries. Bollywood already hires and works with foreigners in Indian clothes, so Beyonce is an easy target here. Also nothing she's doing in the video is remotely even Bollywood-ish or worthy of being called “rani”.
    The main outrage I share with a lot of people is the portrayal of the country. Indians who love Coldplay have forgotten that at the end of the day, hypothetically speaking, it was Chris Martin's great great grandfather who came into our country and colonized us and robbed us of our culture and shamed us and tried to Westernize us too. And the fact that Chris now comes here to fetishize and show us as exotic while making cash out of is! Sure he may have had nothing to do with colonization personally, but he's descended from those people and he should take into account his actions and not hurt people too.
    Lastly, if Coldplay and Beyonce cared enough about India, they would have graced us with their music and atleast had an Indian tour. But Coldplay only decides to come here to use the country as a backdrop for their video. At least the Major Lazer gang made Lean On during their Indian tour.

  32. j.m

    India is a land of many cultures. Here we have people who are rich and poor and some even live below poverty line. Child labour is still prevalent in many parts of INdia. Its difficult to include every part of our culture in one single video. Whats the problem if holi and diwali festivals have been emphasized in the video? They are our major festivals. And religion is a big part of indian culture. bollywood has made india famous worldwide. So wats the problem in depicting beyonce as a bollywood actress? Please take it easy ! I personally loved the video. living a metro city, i wouldnt have been able to see the colourful culture of places like varanasi hardwar etc shown in the video. Everything has been beautifully captured and i dont see any issue with the video

  33. Archit

    You must have confused the video for a documentary on India! A documentary will show you that which you think represents India (which I gather through your insipid article is a post- 1991 liberalization version of India).

    I personally found the video enchanting – the man came to India, liked what he saw, and based his song's video on it. As a musician, he does not have society's mandate in depicting the variegated cultures of every state. Why must you cringe – have you ever visited Ayodhya or Benares? If you have, you may personally dislike what you saw there, but others (a la Chris Martin) may have seen beauty in it. For example, if you came to Times Square, it'd enthrall your pants off. To a New Yorker, however, it's a blot on the landscape. Oscar Wilde said those who find ugly meaning in beautiful things are the corrupt, without being charming. Please don't be so.

  34. Mozybyte

    India has Billions of stories, in any a time or maybe timeless span… it is huge… colourful… phantasmagorical… It can not be portrayed
    This is just another story… Images as captured by one crew to make appealing to many while listening to a song…
    It Serves Cold Play and in a way it Serves India… more will want to visit… sip a little… touch
    But your “personal issues” Rohini Banerjee… Maybe you don't like India… Do something about it yourself
    India is Spectacular to the rest of us… sometimes even the odours your class dispenses for another class to wipe…
    Start inside…

  35. Mozybyte

    But honestly, for so much of your concerns… I would visit India again and spend dearly for the privilege… But would not pay/buy the song 🙂

  36. Captain Logic

    Sure this video is a cringe-worthy albeit visually appealing depiction of India. But the only thing I cringed about is the amount of stereotypes they include in it. To call it racist would be going a bit too far.

  37. Answerme

    Please answer what u think best represents India because u seem to have a problem with everything. This article shows ur immaturity. Then what did u want her to show in the music video? People stuck in traffic? You might be confusing music video with documentary.

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Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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