An Evening in Paris (1967) Movie Review: Shakti Samanta’s Indian Moulin Rouge

Shammi Kapoor inviting us to enjoy An Evening in ParisNow a days, it is common for most middle class Indians to fly to exotic foreign destinations for their honeymoon or for vacations.Imagine in late 60’s when Indians did not have this opportunity and had to buy plane ticket by standing in queue like people do for railway tickets and mostly you had to have the right contacts to get a plane ticket.

Shakti Samanta, offered millions of impoverished Indians a ride across the globe for less than 2 INR in comforts of their own home, I think An Evening in Paris is one of the earlier Indian films to be shot majorly abroad with Pramod Chakravarthy’s Love in Tokyo and Raj Kapoor’s Around the World also releasing around the same period (1966  & 67 respectively).

The film begins with a monologue on how a rich heiress who has been in love thrice, moves to Paris to find the true love which she feels she cannot find in India, what better place than the city of romance. We are introduced to aerial view of Paris, and then we see Sam (Shammi Kapoor), looking straight into camera and singing “Aisa Mauka Phir Kahan Milega” in an indication to audience that they will not get a better deal and he will show them An Evening in Paris. The Devanagri title of the film, shows the name of the film as Ek Shyam Paris Main, which is transliteration of original title.

Sharmila Tagore (Deepa) soon gets a cultural shock, when she see two young people kissing each other. Her roommate Honey (Sarita) says it is normal in this city of love but Deepa is astonished, by this public display of affection. Strangely even after so many years India is still not tolerant to PDA, while it is ok to go and slap people, kill people in name of hate in India. Deepa in search of true love, pretends to be a poor maid and wears Ghaghra choli and roams around, (The tagline of the movie according to my DVD is “A journey In search of Eternal Love”) where she meets Frenchman Louis, who is besotted by her.  Sam learns from Louis, that Deepa feels all Indian men are cheaters and bad.

Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore romancing in ParisIn order to clear her misunderstanding Sam masquerades as a Frenchman, and woos her across the globe, from Paris, to Switzerland to Beirut, across transport from scooters, to boats to hanging midair in chopper. Of course all this wooing is done in absolute style, across great locations, accompanied by some of the best songs in Indian Cinema, with a bit of the charming Shammi and whole lot of gorgeous Sharmila Tagore. She has never looked so gorgeous and beautiful like over here,the only heroine who came to mind who looked so beautiful on screen was Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I am sure Shakti Samanta must be in love with Sharmila Tagore for sure, he seems to have given her some of the best roles in her career.

We also have Shekhar (Pran) (who for some strange reason has an orange wig) who is in trouble as he cannot pay back his loan, to the loan shark played by K N Singh (Jack) and Jaggu (Shetty). We are also informed Deepa has a twin sister Rupa, who was kidnapped by Jaggu in childhood and who is now Suzie,a cabaret dancer in Jack’s club. Clue to readers, we see Sharmila Tagore in western clothes and two cabaret songs for the vamp Rupa/Suzie.

While Jack hatches a plan to kidnap Deepa and ask for ransom, Shekhar has another plan, he collaborates with Suzie, his plan is to replace Suzie when Deepa is kidnapped by Jack. Rest of the film is, how Shammi saves Deepa and how they live happily together. The climax which looks tacky by today’s standard, is quite good for the time period.

Raat ke HumsafarOne of my main grouses with the film, is that some characters are not developed properly.What happens to Rupa after she is hit by bullet is not explained in the film. But then, who cares for logic, when you can have Shammi, Sharmila and Paris.

If you look carefully it is difficult for Shammi as an actor, as his character does not have any background, he remains much of mystery during the whole film. To pull it off you need an actor like Shammi who with his acting can make audience root for him, and for his lady love in the film. We as an audience want Shammi and Sharmila to live happily together.

Sharmila, oh gosh she has probably only looked similarly beautiful in Satyajit Ray’s movie, I guess it is but natural that another Bengali Shakti Samanta makes her look like a million dollar stunning doll in this movie. Sharmila has a meaty role compared to Shammi in this movie, she gets to wear some of the best Indian and Western costumes.

One of the best thing of Shakti Samanta’s films is that songs  are not a distraction, but an extension of his character and situation. While the first song promises us an experience which we will never get anywhere, Akele Akele describes his situation in love to the girl who is ignoring him, while my favourite is Raat Ke Humsafar, which comes right after a scene where Sharmila experiences jealousy for first time in relationship. This is one of the best songs picturised on love in Indian Cinema. It would help if you know Hindi, the meaning of lyrics are lost in translation in subtitled version.

Sharmila Tagore in Bikini in An Evening in ParisShankar Jaikishan‘s music  is one of the highlights of the films, considering that the songs are still popular among youth even today, it speaks volumes about the music.  V.Gopi Krishnan the cinematographer of the film deserves a special mention for capturing Paris in such a lovely manner.

Sachin Bhowmick is the screenplay writer of this film, this man has done some outstanding work, he was also the man behind Krrish series. You can gauge the versatile talent of this man, right fromthe  60’s to  21st century he has worked with biggest directors of the time and given innumerable hits.

If you love old Bollywood movie experience, then this is a must watch. On another note wearing swim suits on screen is still a big thing in India.

You can watch the whole movie here legally.

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