India / Diaries

Holi Festival: An Interview with Bernardo Bacalhau

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Holi Festival: An Interview with Bernardo Bacalhau

Bernardo is a Portuguese computer engineer who took a break from his studies to pursue a dream.

After more than 8 years creating videos for fun, he decided to start his own YouTube channel and give his hobby a real shot. He is amazing at producing fun content that captures his surroundings and mingling with locals, providing an authentic behind the scenes perspective. 

Bernardo took us through India’s Holi Festival, or “The Festival of Colors” the Hindu way of welcoming Spring. It’s a day to forgive and forget past mistakes, end conflicts, play and laugh, and start fresh with new and old friends. But what was his experience really like? Read below the inside scoop.

When did you decide to become a content creator? Where did the idea to create content at Holi Fest come from?

It came up when I decided to study abroad for 6 months at the most prestigious Engineering Institute in India. My experience during my first day at the institute went so well that I created a video capturing it, culture-shock and all. 

The video quickly gained traction with students and by now it has over 700k views on YouTube. I saw this as an opportunity to try my luck at vlogging. I gained 10k subscribers in one month and decided to take a break from my studies to travel around the country creating content. 

That’s how the idea of Holi Fest came up. In mid-February, I was looking for inspiration on what to film next and that’s when I found out that the festival was in a month. I asked my 30k YouTube subscribers for tips and organized a trip accordingly, making sure I was at the right place at the right time: Mathura & Vrindavan, the spot where the festival was born.

I bought a GoPro 7 and a waterproof case for my main camera (Sony A7III) and set out determined to capture the celebration successfully — three days of pure madness.

How much did you know about Holi Fest beforehand? What attracted you from a content creator perspective? Are you happy with the results?

Besides knowing the best spots to enjoy the celebration, I knew very little about the actual event. I knew the festival was about throwing colorful powder at each other and that was it. I knew I wanted to participate because it’s a very unique experience and something that was worth capturing on camera. 

From my research online I couldn't find any videos that did justice to the festival; I quickly learned why. My idea was to capture it in the most beautiful and cinematic way possible. But this was practically impossible due to the excessive crowds, colors, water, alcohol, and bhang (a famous drink in India made out of cannabis). 

In terms of photography, I was happy with the results. And I was very thankful for my waterproof case. In terms of video, it was extremely difficult to capture good content. I was constantly getting hit by colors and pushed by crowds. It was impossible to keep my camera steady. And that’s probably why there aren’t great videos online. But I gave it my best shot.   

Tell us more, what was it like to experience Holi Fest?

My expectations were surpassed by the reality of it, both in good and less good ways. The level of craziness on the streets is incredible. I didn’t expect it to be a predominantly male event because of the excess alcohol and bhang on the streets. The only women I encounter were foreigners and I got the impression they didn’t feel too comfortable. Even I felt a bit uncomfortable (as you’ll see at the end of my video). There are plenty of foreigners on the streets but it’s hard to connect since the surrounding commotion is so intense. 

The temples were the hardest places to film. It’s best to hang in the streets where there’s more space and people are more relaxed. The floats at Mathura were the best thing about the whole festival―pumping Bollywood music and everyone was in a good mood, no aggressiveness. 

The temple at Baldeo was the contrary. It was the most insane environment with thousands of people slapping each other with wet cloths. I was there for less than 5 minutes and still felt like a punching bag.   

Holi celebration at Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

Holi celebration at Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

What are some tips to know in case someone decides to visit or create content there?

To whoever is considering going to Holi Fest, I recommend it. Even though I don’t think I’ll go back, it’s a one and only experience. I wouldn't recommend women going solo, because it’s predominantly dominated by males, and many times, drunk males. I saw plenty of women in groups, so I don’t think that would be an issue. I would suggest visitors stay away from the temples and enjoy the commotion on the streets. 

And for those who want to create content at the event, I suggest you purchase a waterproof case for your camera otherwise it might not survive. And don’t forget to pick up a strap for it too. 

ARTICLE BY
Bernardo Bacalhau
Bernardo Bacalhau Writer, Photographer & Videographer Portugal, Lisbon
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