Shonan + Adesh, Mumbai
Time spent planning this Brij Holi: 3 months
Number of hours of sleep during the wedding season before this shoot: 30 in 6 days
Flight + cab time from Hyd venue to Bom venue: 6 hours including traffic
Amount of time when the sky turned this amazing deep purple blue: 10 minutes
Shutter speed: 1/320th of a second
The look on the bride’s family’s faces after seeing this shot: Priceless!
Joseph Radhik uploaded this picture on his Facebook page on 20th December, 2014. Joe runs Stories by Joseph Radhik – a wedding photography and videography company that in my opinion is one of the best in the country. His caption was intriguing. What really did go on in the months leading up to this moment, this photograph?
This is that story.
The seeds for this image were sown over 12 months ago. At a Jaipur wedding in December 2013, a bride was having the time of her life at her Brij Holi, and Joe was there to capture all the glee in this beautiful frame.
Fast forward to 2014. Shonan had picked Stories by Joseph Radhik to cover her December wedding, stumbled upon this image of the Jaipur bride, and based on a single picture – decided she was going to have a Brij Holi at her own wedding. She wanted breath-taking pictures, just like this one.
But it wasn’t going to be as simple as “let’s add another event to our wedding.”
It was a completely new concept to everyone around them, and they first had to understand what a Brij Holi was. Shonan’s family got in touch with the Jaipur bride’s family, who generously offered up everything they knew about it. They explained that it was a celebration of Krishna & Radha’s relationship, and a group of dancers conveyed this love through a short performance on stage. This was to be followed by hundreds of kilos of flower petals being showered on the incarnation of Krishna & Radha first, and then on the bride and groom. Basically, the whole family would play Holi with flowers. And as Shonan rightly noticed, the pictures turn out nothing short of spectacular, especially if you have a team like Joe’s capturing every moment.
Shonan’s family had been in the middle of researching venues when they came across Madhuli Apartments in Worli. With a three-level garden overlooking the sea, Madhuli stole their hearts at first sight. They immediately booked the venue for her Mehendi – and decided the Brij Holi, which barely takes up an hour, would be celebrated between the afternoon Mehendi and evening dance program. They had planned on holding the Brij Holi on the upper-level, but before they started planning the rest of the Brij Holi – the family invited some of the vendors to the venue for a recce.
Joshua, Joe’s brother and producer behind Stories by Joseph Radhik, came in 3 months before the event and gave his suggestions about everything from lighting to the position of the stage. He recommended holding the Brij Holi on the venue’s mid-tier as it provided a rare Mumbai backdrop of open skies and the sea and Joe’s team, as wedding photographers, could not possibly let the view to go to waste.
The photographers also needed to get the timing right. The harsh shadows of the afternoon sun had made it a challenge to get flattering shots at the Jaipur wedding, so they suggested 5.30 pm as the optimal time – it’s that magic hour in the evening photographers like to call the Golden Hour.
Luckily for the family, the head of the Jaipur-based Brij Holi performance artists group was visiting Mumbai around the same time, and he visited Madhuli to specify his preferences for the venue as well. Lastly, Shonan’s family sat down with the decorators – Creative Concepts – to chalk out what this special event should look like.
The stage itself required a lot of decisions that needed to be made. From the size and height of the stage, everything needed to be customised according to the venue’s dimensions. Where the stage was placed would determine the backdrop, and the photographers were hoping to get photographs without a busy background, that’s typically characteristic of all Mumbai images. A textured white wall was spotted, and it was decided that it would serve as the perfect backdrop. In order to include the sea in the background, the stage was to be given a unique angular layout so that the backdrop extended from the wall all the way to the water. The area needed to be decorated in a way that the theme from the entire event continued through the Brij Holi part of the night. And truss lighting was to be arranged for – to eventually have the stage lit up from all 4 sides enabling the best photographs to be taken.
The decorator wanted to make the backdrop as naturally pretty as possible, adding to the earthy beauty of the venue. The natural arch of the white textured wall was to be used, and beautified with artificial greens that looked as real as possible, while flowers were to be implanted within that greenery giving the illusion of trees with flowers in full bloom.
As if striking the right balance of size, height, structure and placement wasn’t complicated enough, a major problem revealed itself during the planning stages. Once the Brij Holi had been celebrated, the hundreds of flower petals on the floor would turn into a slippery pile of mush. Typically, that wouldn’t have been an issue. But Shonan’s family had to get onto the stage at that point of time and dance! Cleaning up the floor in that state would have been a tremendous task, and innovative ways to limit cleaning-time were brainstormed. One idea stood out – design a stage with a flex exterior, where the flex slides off after the Holi, taking along with it the flower petals! The cleaning process was reduced to just a few minutes, and planning was back on track.
Once the basic structure of the function was in place, the decorators dove into details with Shonan and her sister-in-law, Ruchi, about enhancing the already spectacular venue. The bride and her family were throwing ideas at the decorators that the team had never implemented on this scale earlier, and although they were open to every single one of their quirky requirements, the proof was to be in the pudding…
The Brij Holi/Mehendi was just a few weeks away, when the decorator’s phone rang. Joe was on the line, and he was asking them to come attend another Brij Holi they were shooting at a Mumbai wedding in November. This was the second one Joe’s team was covering, and they wanted the decorator to see it live in action. It would be like a dry run where the decorator would get an ideal sample of what the event should visually translate into, as this was going to be their first time as well organizing a Brij Holi at this scale.
Did Shonan’s Mehendi and Brij Holi go according to plan? What did it all finally look like? Coming up in the next post…
Images courtesy: Stories by Joseph Radhik