Reader Chris brought the sad lack of reviews on the internet of this film to my attention recently, and I am surprised. This is a really fun film, and though Shammi is admittedly towards the end of his career as a hero, he is still the Shammi who made hearts go pitter-patter. The songs are classic Shanker-Jaikishan-Rafi-Shammi, with the dance-off between Helen and Vijayanthimala probably its most well-known feature. But there’s so much more to it than that! Shammi is less exuberant than the Yahoo Shammi of early in the decade, which gives his performance a more subdued realism. He plays Prince Shamsher Singh, the jaded, bored, arrogant son of the Maharajah of Ramnagar (Ulhas); the film is about how wealth and privilege do not guarantee happiness, not by a long shot. This theme—and the setting, at the twilight of the Princely States—may be be trite, but they are no less valid; and the screenplay and story are penned by none other than Abrar Alvi. And the supporting cast…let’s just say it is a gift that keeps on giving.
When I was a kid I dreaded the words “Let’s have a picnic!”. Picnics were nothing but an ordeal to get through: weather (the Beiges never let a little cold rain stop us), poison ivy, bugs, indifferent food. My father did not know or care to know how to barbecue so it was always sandwiches, which I could have just as easily eaten indoors where ants weren’t crawling on them.
Little did I dream in those days that halfway across the world beautiful people were picnicking in STYLE—even at night!
For me, An Evening In Paris = Pran’s bright orange Joker hair + lovely songs. It’s not one of my favorite Shammi films, although there is lots of pretty—especially Sharmila. In fact, everyone should have two hours of footage like this of themselves looking impossibly glamorous, heart-meltingly beautiful, and haughtily chic. If I were Sharmila I would probably watch this every day. Shammi is quintessential Shammi: he looks a little the worse for wear around the edges, but retains his considerable charm and his willingness to make a complete idiot of himself (one of my favorite things about him).
I think my main quibble is with the plot, which is all over the place (literally!), too long, and brain-dead in places. There’s also a complete lack of real character development. It’s as if Shakti Samanta just needed a backdrop for the music and stars and didn’t care about the rest; unfortunately it gets tedious, stylish though it is—the fashions and hair and sets, oh my! Plus it’s lovely to see the locations (Paris, Switzerland, Beirut, the Niagara Falls) as they were during that era, even if we are required to believe sometimes that Paris is filled with signs in German and that the French countryside looks just like India.
I don’t even know what to say today…thanks to all of you who have come here to share your tributes and sorrow with me. He will always have a special place in my heart and I am so blessed to have been able to experience his warmth and enthusiasm and love of life in person: it never diminished, and now it never will.
Rest in peace, you lovely, lovely man. I like to picture you reunited with your beloved Geeta, and I wish for everyone whom you loved so much—especially Neila Devi, Aditya and Kanchan—to find strength in that love now. A star that shines as brightly as you always have can never ever be dimmed.
It is a fact that when I started this blog I had grandiose plans to cover every single film Shammi ever starred in (well, that I could find, anyway). Little did I know how distracted I would become by so much other stuff, but here I go in a valiant attempt to move a teeny bit forward towards that lofty goal.
The Shakti Samanta-Shammi team made several memorable films and I think this is their first together. It has its entertaining moments, but after the first hour or so begins to drag for me. The songs are lovely (Shankar-Jaikishan); Shammi is lovely LOVELY (even in disguise); Padmini and Shashikala and Malaysian actress Maria Menado are lovely; but at the end of the day this isn’t one I want to watch over and over. Shammi’s exuberance seems to have nowhere to go and it fizzles; his chemistry with Padmini is tepid and although I am a fan of Agha, he is not the Shammi sidekick that Rajendranath was.
Now available with subtitles thanks to Tom and Raja!
Sometimes (well, quite often really, due to my suspect tastes) I see a film which wasn’t a hit and I say WHY, UNIVERSE, WHY? Despite the magical combination of Shammi Kapoor in his prime with Shakti Samanta directing, backup from Helen and Asha Parekh, lovely songs (Shankar Jaikishan) and an emotionally compelling and unusual plot, this movie apparently bombed at the box office and has not—until now!—even been put on a dvd with subtitles. (If you would rather just get to the download and not have to read my drivel, scroll all the way down to the end.)
It is not perfect but I found it deeply engaging and sensitive: it is largely about loss, and I think it is one of Shammi’s best performances.
My little obsession with—and posts about—the fantastic filmi band Ted Lyons & His Cubs has reaped some nice rewards I never expected, the best of which is that in the past year I have become friends with Ted personally. Through him, I have discovered the amazing extent to which he and his circle of friends and family contributed to films of the 50s and 60s. His wife Lorna’s father was a bandleader in the early days (his band was called Fats Benny), and Ted, his siblings, in-laws and close friends populate the bands and dance floors in so many songs beloved from that era.
Today I want to introduce you to his sister Edwina, who specialized in the fantastic western swing-ballroom-twist types of dance numbers that I so love, and who epitomizes that most expressive Hindi word bindaas. Edwina has become very dear to me over the past year as well, and she is an utter hoot, the kind of girl who even back in those days would (and did) bum a beedi from a group of hijiras on a late night commuter train and smoke it with them.
Sometimes I just have to ask myself if I live in a cave or something. Why have I not seen this movie before?! I could have seen it ten times by now! Why am I so late to this party?
But better late than never, especially to a party like this one. Beyond the endless (and largely nonchalent) WTF-ery there is a lot going on, much of it possibly unintended but tremendously engaging nonetheless. Hacking my way through the dense plot I spot references to the legend of King Arthur, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the Bible, Beastmaster, Alice In Wonderland, William Faulkner and so much more. I revel in Amitabh’s recyled outfit from Shahenshah and Rajasthan’s gorgeous Amber Fort. Best of all, I am led to ponder issues like “What is the lifespan of a dolphin, anyway?” and “What’s the point of having a magic talisman that turns into an elephant if you never use it?”