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Friday, 19 August 2011

A feast for the eyes (An Evening in Paris)

It's not just one evening. Shakti Samanta's superhit 1967 romance features the goodies of Paris and other exotic locales in Europe throughout the entire length of the film. Pretty women, flashy cars, stylish clothes and scenic landscape, all this more make the musical drama quite an eyeful. And then there's Sharmila Tagore, all delicate, gorgeous and sexy in her awesome attires, and the prince of entertainment, Shammi Kapoor. Wooing the lady in his inimitable style, this man knew how to win hearts. Here of course, he does it with a completely new Parisian flourish.

An Evening in Paris is quite the formulaic entertainer, with some nifty twists thrown in. Girl travels to Paris from India after having failed in love thrice in her homeland. She is fed up with Indian men who is after her money and hardly loves her truly. She reaches Paris, dons the garb of an Indian maid servant (this part is a bit too lame, especially Sharmila Tagore gallivanting on the streets of picturesque Paris in a ghagra choli, looking for true love), and hunts for the perfect man. She meets a Parisian called Louis who shows an acute interest in her. But her remarks about the frivolity of Indian men spurs Louis's friend, Sam, to pursue her. Also, the sight of the pretty lady is too much for Sam, originally Shyam. Though we do not know what he does to afford the expensive clothes he wears, he flirts with her relentlessly with the ultimate objective of making her fall in love with him.
Initially reluctant, Deepa, yes, that's what our rich lady is called, falls for the charms of Sam, who wins after meeting with heavy competition from Shekhar, the villain, all gimmicky in his blonde wig. But this is not the end of the story. Deepa is not the only girl in Sam's life. His charms allure Suzy, the hot club dancer, who is steps into Deepa's shoes after the latter is kidnapped. Suzy is identical to Deepa in presence, but in reality she is worlds apart. The denouement is thrilling, with plenty of action and anticipation.
So why would anyone watch An Evening in Paris? Because, though the story is quite predictable, there are a huge number of positives rooting for this one. To begin with, there's the fantastic locale that you can feast your eyes on. As Sam flirts with Deepa in one song after another, you can see how the good-looking couple merge with the prettiness of the place. Sam is flashy and Deepa is gorgeous. And isn't it true that Paris is perfect for lovers. This turns out to be so true in case of this lovely couple.
The music by Shankar Jaikishan is fantastic. Right from the title track that features Shammi Kapoor against the backdrop of a lively night in Paris, the fast-paced Hoga tumse kal bhi saamna, the naughty Deewaney ka naam to pucho and the adenaline-rusher Aasmaan se aaya farishta to the quaint Akele akeley kahaan ja rahein ho and the sexy club numbers Zuby duby and Leja leja mera dil. Mohd Rafi (for the most part) and Asha Bhonsle just make me go bonkers! With a score that is as fascinating as Paris, Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore, tell me what's not to like here. This film is a source of constant dance tracks. Just shimmy away!!!
Pran as the conniving Shekhar is deliciously wicked. He is the perfect rogue, juxtaposed immaculately against the noble hero. His intentions are far from honourable and he has no qualms in using the heroine to further his means. The scene where he tries to rape Deepa (She looks lipsmackingly elegant here in her LBD), is done with such a subtle hand. There is no hue and cry, no screeches and screams. The astute villain, he gets the girl sloshed before plunging on her. That ways, he does not have to labour too much...
Sharmila Tagore is picture perfect here. Though I did find her characteristics a bit irksome in the beginning, I couldn't care much just for the fact that is so pretty, with her petiteness, her perfect figure and her cute dimples. She is made to wear some awesome clothes and it's wonderful how great both Indian as well as western outfits look on her. Sharmila was definitely a trendsetter. Be it strutting her stuff quite confidently in a monokini or playing a sexy club dancer with oomph, she was someone who had no inhibitions whatsoever. She looks like she is enjoying all the attention in the song Aasmaan se aaya farishta, and is so effortless and relaxed wearing those little numbers in her club songs. She has a subtle sexuality about her that no one can miss. Even in the song, Raat ke humsafar (it's just sheer bliss), she regales in the attraction that Sam has for her. And mind you, the attraction has a very palpable physicality to it.
I liked her performance, too. It was charming and spontaneous. After the initial hiccups, she simply feel in line with the character. A rich girl, with plenty of money and time at hand, looking for true love. Not a very hard proposition for an artist of Sharmila's calibre.

Shammi Kapoor does the real sheparding in An Evening in Paris. He is the real hero here. Right from the first song, to the last reels, he is the one anchoring the show. But the difference here is that Shammi Kapoor, though continuing to display that characteristic flamboyance, is suddenly pretty subtle sometimes. He infuses a raw sexuality in his persona, is very aware of the effect that his feral charm has on the woman. He does not shy away from making those passionate overtures towards Deepa and talking love. His gaze is intense and his body language fierce. Most of his dance moves here are impromptu and hence quite exciting. I love him in all the songs, he just breathes life into them. Though he is healthy, he is dressed to kill. Very natty indeed. And his performance is controlled and moderated to exude only positive reactions. His comedy is restrained and even in his scenes with Rajindernath (who is refreshingly good here as the Sardar driver), he applies a measured technique of being sharp and witty. This film only shows how experience had matured this rebel star, making him from raw to refined...


  1. Yes, AEIP is an enjoyable fare. Shammi Kapoor was sauve as Sam with Indian heart. Sharmila Tagore can never pass off as servant maid whatever she may do. She was gorgeous as Deepa. All the songs are nice but I like Deewaney Ka Naam To Pucho the best :)

  2. @Sreenath: My favourites are Aasmaan se aaya farishta and Raat ke humsafar. The first one its unique picturisation and catchyness and the second one for its romantic finesse.

  3. I do wish some of the unnecessary gimmickry had been cut out of this film; other than that (not to mention Pran's awful bronze wig and the fact that the - was it Lebanese? - countryside being passed off as France!) - it's a feast for the senses.

  4. @Dustedoff: Ya, there were many bloopers... but then anything for all the goodness there! ;)

  5. I like all Shammi's post tumsa nahin dekha period.
    There are some of his films I like more than the others and some less than the others.
    This one belongs to the latter category. :)


  6. @Pacifist: Hmmm, point taken. But Shammi is still so suave here.

  7. Nice review of a wonderfully charming film. Sadly, they don't make them like this anymore...

  8. @Roshmi: Exactly!! Now they make only ghastly videos that they pass off as entertainers!! :(

  9. Hey Sharmi :) I was reading online the other day and I found this interesting tidbit, hope you enjoy it :)

    "....Shammi Kapoor is quick to provide examples of this - while Aasman se aaya farishta for 'An Evening in Paris' had to be recorded, Shammi Kapoor was called away on an outdoor schedule. Before leaving, he told the director Shakti Samanta to wait until he returned. However, the recording studio had been booked, and Samanta went ahead with the recording.

    When Shammi returned, he was livid. He took a keen interest in the recordings of all his songs, as all his directors and music directors were aware. When he began berating Samanta, the director was quick to stop him; he asked Shammi to listen to the recording, and then, if he did not approve, they would re-record the song.

    Shammi, still angry, had no other choice. But when he listened to the recording, his anger faded - there wasn't a note that he wanted changed. Samanta explained that when Rafisaab came for the recording, he wanted to know who would enact the song on screen. When told that it was to be picturised on Shammi Kapoor and in a helicopter, to boot, Rafisaab promptly said - "Then, he will shake his head at this point; and move his hands and legs this way - that man doesn't know how to stand still! I'll have to sing it this way..."


  10. @Neha: They knew each other so well!! Absolutely made for each other!!

  11. nice review Sharmi......very few directors have the quality to bring the best out of their actors and i think shakti samanta was one of them though i personally think he was a bit like Karan Johar of our time(a bit too extravagant).
    But an enjoyable fare nonetheless. Thanks for taking me down the memory lane:)


  12. @Rohit: Karan Johar is a nincompoopfilmmaker, nowhere close to the artist Shakti Samanta. Look how he painted Kashmir ki Kali with the most exquisite brushstrokes!! Thanks for the comment and keep reading.

  13. It is very nice movie..shammi looks good in that movie..sharmila looks awesome in that movie.. They knew each other so well!i like it...

    Chaniya Choli | Chaniya Cholis

  14. @Darshan: Yes, it is indeed quite entertaining.

  15. Had watched this a while back. But now that I have the DVD, will watch it again :)

  16. @Roshmi: Yes do. And keep a special eye reserved for our darling hero!!

  17. Before making, he informed the home Shakti Samanta to delay until he come back. However, the documenting business had been reserved, and Samanta went forward with the documenting.

  18. @Christmas: Hmmm... Thanks for the trivia!