Baahubali: A Global On-Screen Phenomenon

Move aside Game of Thrones, there’s a new epic saga in town.

A couple of days ago, the Honey Bee, accompanied by friends, went to watch the second of 2 part Indian movie-Baahubali (meaning the one with strong arms). Apparently, this movie is all the rage in India, and is making some pretty big waves in other parts of the world as well. This historical fiction movie set in ancient times involves a Game of Thrones like situation involving warring kingdoms and families. Specifically, Wikipedia describes is as “a tale of the lost rightful heir of the fictional kingdom of Mahishmati, who learns about his true identity while falling in love with a rebellious warrior, who (among with her group) intends to rescue the former queen of Mahismati.

At the time of its release in 2015, Baahubali: The Beginning was billed to be the most expensive Indian movie ever made. It became the highest grossing film in India and the third-highest grossing Indian film worldwide. Its release was a big deal and the movie premiered in several thousand movie theaters worldwide. Even more interesting is the fact that the movie was not originally made in Hindi, but in Telegu (a southern regional language).

bbl

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion released earlier this month with an even larger bang. It premiered in over 9,000 screens worldwide and was dubbed into Hindi, Malayalam, German, French, Japanese and English. It became the highest ever grossing film of all time with a budget of US$ 39 million, a little over half the budget for India’s much publicized mission to Mars.

For some reason, we entirely missed the wave of popularity and virality the first movie brought with it. But not this time. After the Honey Bee saw the second part and told me all about how great it was, I was almost entirely convinced that I needed to watch it. However, what really pushed me over the edge was an article about the movie in the Wall Street Journal.

So a couple of days back, we finally watched the first part. The Honey Bee couldn’t contain her excitement as we watched the plot unfold. Apparently, as she explains, there are a number of plot secrets and connections between the parts. Having already seen the second part, she was making all those connections, while I was still trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

Without giving away too much of the story, let me tell you there is nothing even remotely small about this movie. The storyline, the characters, the special effects, the battle scenes, everything is larger than life and leaves you astounded. An over-the-top, fast-moving plot, combined with (very) short song & dance numbers keep you enthralled from the very beginning to the very end. In fact, after the movie ended I sat there stupefied in my seat, and it took me a couple of minutes to recover from the awesomeness of this movie.

So, whether you’re simply tired of the long-drawn-out Game of Thrones, or whether you’re awaiting the next season, I would strongly suggest you watch this movie. In the meantime, we’re going to make sure we watch the second part in the coming weeks.    

Watch the trailer for the first part here: Baahubali: The Beginning Trailer

 

 

Taste Memories

Isn’t it amazing how we have memories tied to certain a taste, or smell or song? And isn’t it funny how you don’t realize you had that memory until something triggers it?

Yesterday, after enjoying a nice evening walk the Honey Bee and I were headed home for dinner. We happened to cross a new Mexican restaurant that we’ve been meaning to visit, but never have. On an impulse, we decided to dine there.

I ordered a burrito and on the very first bite, as soon as it hit my tongue, I was immediately transported back some 10 years to when I was a student in the US. The university cafeteria had a burrito that tasted just like it.

The burrito was good, but nothing I’d write home about. However, the memory it triggered made me relish the burrito. With every bite I took, I was re-living my care free university days. I was enjoying it so much that the Honey Bee had to ask me to keep the noises from my foodgasm down. 😛

While writing this post, I did some quick desktop research on the subject and was pleasantly surprised to find research on the subject. Here’s an extract of a summary of one of the findings:

A functional link between the brain region responsible for taste memory and the area responsible for encoding the time and place we experienced the taste had been found. The findings expose the complexity and richness of the simple sensory experiences that are engraved in our brains and that in most cases we aren’t even aware of.

Suffice it to say, I liked the memory it triggered that I was unaware I had and that we will definitely be going back to that restaurant.

Happy Diwali 2015!

 

Today, we celebrate Diwali– one of the brightest and best known festivals in India. Today’s blog post serves to put together my experiences and knowledge of this festival, its significance, and how it is celebrated.

The festival of Diwali, also called the festival of lights, represents the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated by Hindus the world over. For those that are unaware, there are a plethora of deities in Hinduism, deities associated with various events, festivals, emotions and objects.  However, I should clarify that although there exist a large number of deities in Hinduism, the belief is in one supreme God with various incarnations. To be honest, I am unsure of the actual number, but a quick Google search brings up various articles that estimate that number to be in the hundreds of millions.

DiyasDepending on your beliefs (they vary by region, religion, etc.), it is the day Lord Ram returned from 14 years of exile, after slaying the evil Ravan, with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. It is said people lit diyas (earthen lamps) to help light the way for Lord Ram to come home. The diya is now synonymous with Diwali, and is still common tradition, with most households lighting at least one diya. In addition, it is also believed that lighting a diya on Diwali welcomes Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth into the home.

It is a happy time, when families come together to perform traditional pujas together to thank the Gods. Since this day also marks the New Year in the Hindu calendar, families pray for prosperity.  The puja normally consists of lighting incense and diyas and making offerings of food and wealth to the Gods to thank them for their blessings.

This is traditionally followed by the younger members of the family seeking the blessings of their elders, and the family exchanging gifts. Then comes my favorite part- the food. The Diwali family dinner is a traditional event, which entails preparation of traditional Indian cuisine served on new or special silverware. Among other things, the meal centers around succulent potatoes and green peas cooked in mouth-watering vegetable gravy, served with raita (a concoction of yogurt mixed with some spices, and finely chopped tomato, onion and cucumber). This is accompanied by puri, a kind of thin bread that is fried and inflates into a ball.

Rangoli 2After the traditional dinner, families tend to visit close friends and relatives to convey their regards and best wishes. This also provides an opportunity to enjoy the rangolis, traditional patterns made out of colored powder. These beautiful patterns take hard work and patience to create, but result in a beautiful final product. I have fond memories as a child, of my brother and I helping our mother create hers, or sometimes even creating our own little rangoli for our family and friends to admire.

Apart from the warmth, great food, beautiful lights and decorations, Diwali brings an additional charm for kids- firecrackers. Children partake in lighting all sorts of fireworks, big and small, loud and louder, and enjoying the beautiful images and formations they create. While great for kids, this aspect of Diwali is not something everyone agrees on. I remember my brother and I swearing off fireworks close to when I was 12 or 13 years old, after we learned about their harmful effects.

These firecrackers are NOISY and go on late into the night. They prevent people from being able to hear themselves think, let alone sleep. I won’t even go into the harmful impact they have on pets. They increase pollution levels significantly, releasing insane amounts of poisonous and toxic substances into the atmosphere, which we then breathe. They are responsible for a number of respiratory illnesses and result in burns and injuries during this happy time of the year. Not to mention the child laborers and the horrendous conditions in which they work to manufacture these fireworks for other children.

Fortunately, there seems to be hope. Awareness seems to be increasing. Government and private organizations are running campaigns. And the results are already evident. The papers are reporting fewer children bursting firecrackers, and industry groups are reporting sales decreases of up to 30% this year. Good news for all. 🙂

Anyway, as for us, we plan to celebrate this Diwali. Maybe not with the same intensity that we used to back home, but we certainly won’t let it pass without event.  Honey Bee has chosen to decorate the house with special lights. Later in the evening, we plan on performing a tiny puja at home, and lighting some candles, followed by a dinner out at a nice Indian restaurant with friends.

And no matter where you are, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Happy Diwali, and a prosperous new year!

40 Hours in Milan

Galerias Milan

This last weekend we went off to Milan to celebrate the fact that we were able to, well, get cheap flight tickets. 😉

After a very very early morning flight, we reached sleepy, but enthusiastic- waiting to take in Milan with all its sights, sounds, and lots of pizza! Since we were just gone for the weekend, we decided to backpack it- no suitcases, no check-in luggage.

As soon as we reached the city center, we started for the Doumo right away. Milan, Florence, and other Italian cities allMilan Cathedral have a Duomo, which is Italian for Dome and refers to a cathedral. Milan’s Duomo is the Cathedral of Milan that took nearly six centuries to complete and is today the world’s 5th largest church.  It is an imposing structure adorned with hundreds of statues. Sitting under the sun on the Piazza del Duomo while relishing a cold beverage/ice cream is a great way to appreciate it and get lost in all its beauty.

Navigli

Among other sights, we also visited the Navigli District– a charming area with restaurants and shops lining a canal that runs through this part of Milan. Apparently, these are the same canals that were once used to transport the marble used in the construction of the cathedral.  

The Honey Bee and I visited Florence earlier this year, but forgot to purchase a memento for our collection. So I was hell-bent on buying a statue of Michelangelo’s David, in addition to a statue of the Duomo which we were going to buy as a souvenir from Milan. That was not as easy as we had anticipated. During the 40 odd hours we were there, we probably visited close to 40 souvenir shops, but with no luck. Surprising how everyone sells statues of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Saint Peter’s Basilica, even though we’re not in Pisa or Rome, but no one sells a statue of David from Florence. After having given up any hope of finding the statue, we were looking for a place to eat when we found one souvenir shop that we hadn’t yet visited. We decided to try our luck, and lo and behold, a statue of David (albeit overpriced).

Just before our Last Supper in Milan (pun intended), we chanced upon a guitarist with a dog (fairly common in most European cities) performing near the center. We stood there and listened while he performed 2 recent very popular American songs. He played the guitar well, but somewhere between the incorrect lyrics, and his funky pronunciations, he lost us. We noticed that of the people who stopped and listened, a few left him some money, and most didn’t. This is when the Honey Bee and I got into an interesting debate.

She said he was working hard, and everyone who listened to him should be obliged to pay him. Her claim was that if someone didn’t intend to tip him for his services, they shouldn’t stand there and listen to him. Additionally, she claimed that he was performing on the street because he was clearly in need of money.

However, I believe that couldn’t be the case, given the presence of the large and healthy golden retriever by his side. My Musicianconviction is that these performers play on public property, without obtaining any special permits. That, in itself, makes what they’re doing not so legal. Further, by playing in public squares, they create a nuisance, not allowing people to enjoy the sights they came to visit without a loud-speaker blaring into their ears. As often occurs at train stations, in metros/trains, etc. they start performing even when you don’t want to listen, and create an annoyance. Because of their singing, you can’t read the newspaper, or talk on the phone, or get any work done. Later they harass you for money.  I say tip them if you like what they’re doing and want to show your appreciation, but don’t feel obligated to.

In case you’re wondering, we finally did leave him a tip, but couldn’t come to a final agreement about whether or not we should feel obliged to tip him. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you…send me a message, or post a comment below.

Anyway, before we knew it our 40 hour trip had come to an end and we were on our midnight flight back to Spain. Our stomachs full of delicious food and wine, our bags full of mementos, and our minds and spirits renewed with great memories.