India – Prince Charming

Dirty Dancing

Bollywood (also known as Hindi Cinema), the Indian film industry, takes its name by combining the ‘B’ in Bombay with the rest of Hollywood, minus the ‘H’. It is a massive business – the largest in the world… even topping the American movie trade in the 1970’s – that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013. The industry produces approximately 1,000 films each year, which are available in more than 90 countries and results in a viewership of three billion people. Those are some staggering numbers, so let’s learn a little more about the phenomenon:

The first Bollywood film was ‘Raja Harishchandra,’ which was a silent film released in 1913. The movie premiered in Bombay’s Coronation Cinema and included men playing any female roles. Nearly 20 years later, the first Indian film with sound, ‘Alam Ara,’ hit theatres. A few years after that, the first Bollywood film with colour, ‘Kisan Kanya,’ opened to audiences. It’s hard to imagine Indian films being anything but filled with vibrant colours and singing and dancing numbers.

Sing and Dance

Speaking of those types of movies, Bollywood’s first musicals were released in the 1930’s and drew inspiration from Hollywood’s 1920’s musical efforts. These Hindi releases included ‘Indra Sabha’ and ‘Devi Devyani,’among others. The Golden Age of Indian Cinema followed, occurring between 1940 and 1960, with many films targeting the social issues of the time in the country. As the 1960’s came, romance and action movies became popular within the Bollywood industry and in the 1970’s the gangster flick took over at the box office.

In 1946, the movie ‘Neecha Nagar’ (aka Lowly City) won the Best Film Award at the inaugural Cannes Film Festival and went on the gain recognition around the world. The film looks at the divide between the upper and lower classes and features Ravi Shankar as its music director. More success for Bollywood films at the Cannes Film Festival came in 1988, when ‘Salaam Bombay’ won the Golden Camera and Audience Awards. It was later nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

The most songs featured in any Bollywood film was a whopping 71 in ‘Indra Sabha.’ I can barely get through a beloved Disney film without jabbing a Q-tip into my ears, so this would certainly be an excruciating experience for the Sip Advisor! The longest song in Bollywood film history is ‘Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon’ (try saying that three times fast… you’re not allowed to play if you’re Indian!). The number appears in the film of the same name.

Themes typically found in Bollywood films include ill-fated lovers, disappointed parents, family issues, corruption, and crime, as the movies blend singing and dancing, romance, comedy, and action. While older Hindi films featured pre-arranged marriages, modern Bollywood movies have incorporated Westernized relationship ideals and practices.

Dancing in the Street

While many Hollywood productions can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to create, the most expensive Bollywood release ever filmed was 2011’s ‘Ra One,’ which cost $27 million. Similarly, while a number of Hollywood releases can be credited with raking in piles of cash, the 2009 comedy ‘3 Idiots’ (which the Sip Advisor somehow did not receive a role in) is the greatest earner in Bollywood history, taking in a mere $71 million worldwide.

It may not be the Academy Awards, but for Hindi films, the Filmfare Awards provide the Bollywoood industry its brightest night to shine. The most prestigious award one can gain for a lifetime of contributions to the Indian movie business is the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, which is handed out by the country’s government each year.

Many Bollywood films surpass the 3-hour running time and include an intermission. Personally I wouldn’t mind if this was adopted for longer North American films, as who doesn’t thirst for the chance to hit a washroom during some of these epics! The longest Bollywood movie is ‘LOC L Kargil,’which clocks in at a whopping 4 hours and 25 minutes.

While Hollywood has its Walk of Fame, Mumbai has countered with its own Walk of the Stars. Also, in India, folks can enjoy Bollywood tours, which include visits to film sets, as well as checking out the homes of celebrities, much like the tours of stars’ mansions offered by unscrupulous Hollywood guides.

Bollywood Style

It’s estimated that 14 million Indians attend movie theatres each day. That said, the Bollywood film industry suffers losses of about $100 million per year due to pirated content. Interestingly, Hindi film soundtracks are often more popular than their movie counterpart and are released prior to the film to help draw viewers in.

According to director Baz Luhrmann, his popular musical ‘Moulin Rouge’ was inspired by Bollywood films. Now I know who to blame for all the times Mrs. Sip insists I watched this tripe again. Thanks, India!

And finally, director Yash Chopra has been given the title of ‘Godfather of Romance,’ although that thief stole the moniker from me. Just ask Mrs. Sip and she’ll back me up… at least she better, for fear of losing me as her personal sandwich artist. Drink time!

India: Prince Charming

Prince Charming Martini

I feel like I should watch a Bollywood movie while enjoying today’s cocktail… perhaps I’ll just throw on the gripping Slumdog Millionaire and pretend it’s a Hindi movie!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink was nice and smooth, despite being booze heavy and with not much mixer going into the recipe. It all went down easy thanks to its small serving. Of course, this was my first time trying Royal Challenge Whiskey and I’m still trying to figure out it’s quality. I think I’ll have to have a snifter of it straight up, as the Cognac may have helped a lot here.

January 18 – Crouching Tiger

Counter Culture

I fell asleep during the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, despite the fact I thought I’d enjoy the fantastical martial arts film with a name that sounds like a wicked sex position. This is far from the first popular film (at least according to most of the world) that I have walked away from disliking. Here are the top five movies I refuse to watch, despite their large fan base:

#5: The Hunger Games

Okay, so I only saw the first entry of this series, but it will be hard for Mrs. Sip to get me to return for more. Sorry to drop a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the film, but I absolutely hated how they built up this entire competition for what seemed like forever, only to kill off half the competitors immediately. Then, the fact producers wanted the film to be PG-13 eliminated any chance of serious themes from the book being examined. And so, we slowly wound our way to the inevitable and predictable finish. The Japanese flick Battle Royal is a far better offering in the realm of kids being challenged to kill one another in the name of survival.

#4: Moulin Rouge

Good lord, Mrs. Sip loves her musicals. The Sip Advisor, however, despises any media that is largely based around singing. Tragically, I’ve been dragged to a number of films or forced to watch movies where even the simplest dialogue is crooned. I’m not talking about Disney or other animated offerings, but live action movies where song and dance drives the entire production. Back to Moulin Rouge, I’ve actually been outside of the cabaret club in Paris, France and even without entering, cold chills were running through my system and I suffered flu-like symptoms just being in its presence.

#3: Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit

Middle Earth is simply a place I don’t want to visit… and I definitely don’t want to get stuck there for six movies and 525 hours (running time is purely an estimate of Peter Jackson’s need to have super extended versions of his films). For most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mrs. Sip and I watched the DVD’s and I made sure a clause was put in our contract that we’d halt the movie half way through to take a break playing pool or throwing darts or something else to get me through the second half of the film. The tactic was not very successful with regards to my overall enjoyment.

#2: The Matrix

I just don’t understand these films and the truth of the matter is, I don’t really want to. When I saw the first installment many moons ago, all I could think about was how hungry I was. Thankfully, my McDonald’s feast afterwards wasn’t as disappointing as my cinema choice. Sadly, Mrs. Sip loved that first movie, so when the sequels arrived and we were now dating, I was dragged to midnight openings like I was some nerd who enjoys standing in lines for his entertainment. I only do that at Disneyland, thank you very much!

#1: Star Wars

Mrs. Sip was absolutely shocked when we started dating and I told her I had never seen the original Star Wars trilogy. She had grown up on the films and in short order, made me watch all three of the original releases. I’ve never really been a huge fan of science fiction. I think some of the concepts are neat, but in general, the whole space setting isn’t my cup of tea and too much fantasy and made up stuff irritates me. I must say, this was one of the few new experiences we shared that summer that I didn’t enjoy!

Super Saturday Shot Day: Crouching Tiger

Crouching Tiger Shooter

  • 0.5 oz Tequila (I used Hornitos)
  • 0.5 oz Lychee Vodka/Liqueur
  • Splash of Lychee Juice
  • Garnish with Lemon Wedge

Looking back at my list, not only are most of my selections popular movies, they’re god damn franchises, meaning I’m usually forced to sit through multiple movies I’d rather not see. Movies like Twilight and Titanic should have made the list, but I’ve actually been able to avoid watching any of these, so I’ll just leave them off and pretend they don’t exist!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
This shot was pretty strong, thanks to the Tequila and my choice to go with Lychee Vodka rather than Lychee Liqueur. I added the splash of Lychee Juice to try and lighten the recipe and that helped in getting the flavour across. A decent shooter, but nothing to go out of your way for.

May 31 – A Brisk Walk through the Red Light District

The Tales We’ll Tell

This drink has, by far, the longest name I’ve ever seen in my years of cocktail experiences. That makes it all the more intriguing to try. It also harkens back to memories of the Red Light Districts this Sip Advisor has traversed. Some of those remembrances are foggier than others, so let’s tip-toe our way together through the seedy underbelly of some of the world’s most famous cities!

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Okay, so this visit was a little messed up… and that’s probably putting it lightly. Amsterdam is home to many pot cafes and such and whether you’re a regular user of the drug or not, it’s all part of the experience. Our night started out innocently enough at one of the district’s classic sex shows, where we received a grab bag of little treats and watched performers do much more than bump and grind. The weirdest part, aside from the “smoking scene” was all the Asian business dudes sitting quietly in the back and taking the show quite seriously.

Next, we were off to the Sex Museum, free entry with our sex show ticket stub, with a quick stop to sample some of the city’s famous delicacies. Mrs. Sip and I agreed to split a “special” brownie and wait a little while before trying anything else (as suggested on a health advisory slip that came with the product we chose). After only waiting about 20 minutes, we threw caution to the wind and try something else because “we didn’t feel anything”. Famous last words…

HashBrownies

The brownie finally kicked in at the top floor of the Sex Museum, where you could sit on a giant toadstool (at least I hope they were toadstools) and watch an animated Snow White parody porno. Did I mention that there was a giant 7 foot phallus in the room, too… oh, and some creepy dude who seemed to be in there all by his lonesome watching the Snow White cartoon a tad to seriously.

Somehow, we made it back to our hostel that night, a little worse for wear. We returned to the district on our own the next night, still feeling a little foggy from the activities of the evening before, and hoping to experience the area in a different mood.

New Orleans, U.S.A.

Ah, sweet Bourbon Street. Home to Mardi Gras and by extension, beads and boobies. When I was just a little sipper, the Sip Family stopped in N’Orleans along our cross country train trip. Although myself and Broski Sip weren’t of legal age yet, we were allowed to walk the famous boulevard and get a glimpse of its partying ways. With jazz music bellowing out of many establishments and posters advertising strip shows at nearly every corner, I thought I’d found heaven. I have pledged to return to the area and do it properly, although Mrs. Sip might have to think twice about wearing those low-cut tops!

red-light-district-chicks

Paris, France

Home to the infamous Moulin Rouge cabaret, Mrs. Sip and I wandered the district briefly and waited for our tour bus to pick us up. Sadly, it never came and we had to figure out our own way back to our campsite far outside of town… stupid budget tours! We weren’t there for too long, but one of the highlights of being in the area was just watching all the different people and traffic, as it filled the streets. What an eclectic gathering of humanity!

Hamburg, Germany

While visiting family, we were treated to a tour of the world famous Reeperbahn (which sounds like the site of a serial killer’s stalking ground… and it probably was at some point). The area is full of history and not just of a sexual nature. Did you know The Beatles first gained fame outside of Liverpool there? It’s also where they met Ringo Starr, who would eventually replace Pete Best as the band’s drummer.

queen reeperbahn

Even the Queen goes to the Reeperbahn to get blitzed!

You might think it a little awkward to be exploring streets lined with sex shops, legal prostitution and other sinful recreational activities with your family, but it’s more funny than anything else. Pa Sip joined myself and Broski Sip for a walk down the alley where ladies try to sell their wares… and if you give them a tough time, legend has it you could be on the receiving end of a bucket of water… or, at least you hope it’s water.

During the evening, we stopped in this tiny little pizza joint for a quick bite. The place had the most disgusting bathrooms I’ve ever seen, but some of the most delicious pizza I’ve ever tried. The mathematical formula I’ve come up with is pizza > bathroom + drunk = who the hell cares!

Drink #151: A Brisk Walk through the Red Light District

May 31

  • Rim glass with Lemon Sugar
  • 1.5 oz Whiskey (I used Crown Royal)
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • Top with Iced Tea
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

It’s funny how much these notorious Red Light Districts are now must-hit tourist attractions for all ages. If a city you’re travelling to has one, I’d say you have to visit it and take in all it has to offer (well, maybe not everything), for better or worse!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (2.5 Sips out of 5):
I didn’t really like the way this cocktail came together. The Sweet Vermouth, despite only being a splash dominated the drink when I wanted to taste the Iced Tea. Oh well…