Helen: The ultimate seductress

Published on March 17, 2015 07:55:38 AM
She was the vamp who stole our hearts. An ultimate entertainer par excellence, Helen charmed an entire generation of Indians with her good looks and cabaret dances.

Born in Burma in 1939 to an Anglo-Indian father and Burmese mother, Helen’s film career was nothing short of a fairy tale.

She started her film career as a chorus dancer in Hindi films like Awara and Shabistan in 1951. But, fame came to this beauty in 1957 with her memorable item number ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’ in the film Howrah Bridge. Her dancing skills and stunning beauty came to the limelight with this popular item number. Popularly called ‘cabaret queen’ of her time, this ever green actor enchanted her fans with her unforgettable performances in more than 500 films.

She immortalised the role of vamp and added a special charm to her roles with her seductive looks and breathtaking item numbers. She was known for her seductive smile and was an unavoidable part of the suspense-thriller film genre of 1960’s and 1970’s.

She played the role of Kitty Kelly, a happy go lucky girl in the film Gumnaam, made in 1965. The film was adapted from the book ‘And then there were none’ written by Agatha Christie. She played the character of Kelly, who was stranded in a remote island along with her co-passengers.
This psychological thriller film revolved around the plight of the deserted passengers, as passengers were mysteriously killed one after another by a killer.

The film was a crowning moment in Helen’s acting career as her jovial character contrasted with that of other passengers, who were traumatized by the tragedy that fell on them. Her subtle acting gave another dimension to the film, making it one of the most unforgettable suspense thriller films of all time.
Helen’s ardent fans consider ‘Mehbooba’song from the film Sholay, as her best ever performance. Helen danced to her heart’s content in this item number.

This song was so popular that it was remixed years later. Her dazzling performance in this song made her the indisputable item song queen of her era, a feat yet to be achieved by today’s actresses.
Her colorful film career became the subject of a film, when the legendary Merchant Ivory Films, came up with a 30-minute documentary film on her life and films- ‘Helen, Queen of the Nautch Girls.’

This versatile actress was conferred the Padma Shri by the Indian government. She was also awarded the Film Fare Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Hindi cinema.