New Delhi: Sizzling diva and tinsel town dancing queen Helen turns 72 today. This ‘zulfon waali haseena’ carved a niche in Bollywood owing to her dance talent. Undoubtedly, credit goes to this ‘mehbooba o mehbooba’ for giving a new identity to ‘cabaret’. From ‘ye mera dil pyaar ka diwana’ to special dance performance in film ‘Mohabbatein’, Helen still has a charm and personified beauty to allure anybody easily.

Images of cabaret Queen Helen

Her tremendous dancing moves used to hypnotize people and compel them to shake a leg with her. So much so that till date she remains the undisputed dancing queen and undeniable dancing diva of Bollywood.

Dancing queen’s filmy journey

Helen was born as Helen Jairag Richardson on October 21, 1939 in Burma. She joined Bollywood when a family friend, an actress known as Cukoo, helped her find job as a chorus dancer in films Shabistan and Awaara (1951). Soon, she found herself working full-time in Bollywood as within two years of her debut she was featured as a solo dancer in films such as Alif Laila (1954), Hoor-e-Arab (1953), Baarish.

Helen caught the eyes of the audience in 1958 when she performed the song "Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu" in Shakti Samanta's film, Howrah Bridge, which was sung by Geeta Dutt. After that, offers started pouring in throughout the 1960's and 1970's.

During her initial career, Geeta Dutt sang many songs for her. Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle also frequently sang for Helen, particularly during the 1960s and the early 70's.

Even writer Salim Khan, who she is now married to, helped her get roles in some of the films he was co-scripting with Javed Akhtar like ‘Immaan Dharam’, ‘Don’, ‘Dostana’ and ‘Sholay’. This was followed by a role in Mahesh Bhatt's film ‘Lahu Ke Do Rang’ (1979) for which she won Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award. In 1999 Helen was given India's prestigious Filmfare lifetime achievement award.

The word cabaret was like a taboo in Bollywood. It was Helen who changed Bollywood’s notion by glamourising cabaret through her fabulous and remarkable dance moves. Helen’s performances in all ways can be an inspiration for all the item girls in the film industry. In fact, undeniably it can be stated that she is the one to start the trend of item numbers in B-town in the form of cabaret.

Helen’s personal life

Helen was born in Burma to an Anglo-Indian father and Burmese mother. She has a brother Roger and a sister Jennifer. Her father died during the Second World War after which her family migrated to Mumbai in 1943. Her mother's salary as a nurse was not enough and Helen had to quit her schooling to support the family.

Director PN Arora was Helen's guardian from 1957 to 1974. He was believed to have cornered all of Helen's earnings but later, she got them back. In 1980, Helen married Salim Khan and became his second wife. They adopted a girl, Arpita.

Salman Khan is her stepson and she has acted as his mother in the film ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, as his grand mother-in-law in ‘Khamoshi: The Musical’ and ‘Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha’ and as his grandmother in the film ‘Marigold’.

Kudos to Helen for item numbers like ‘Mera Namm Chin Chin Chu’, ‘Gham Chhod Ke Mano Rang Relli’, ‘Oh Hasina Julfon Wali Janejahan’, ‘Piya Tu Ab To Ajaa’, ‘Aa Jane Jaan’, ‘Mungda Mungda Main Gud Ki Dali’, ‘Mehbooba O Mehbooba’ etc which gave the cinegoers  a reason to visit the theaters over and again.

This ‘mehbooba’ lit ‘sholay’ in the hearts of many leaving them wounded with her hip movements and ‘haseen zulfein’. Wishing this dancing queen of Bollywood a very happy and hearty birthday from Jagran Post.     

Awards for her extravaganza performances

Filmfare Nomination as Best Supporting Actress for Gumnaam (1965)

Filmfare Nomination as Best Supporting Actress for Shikar (1968)

Filmfare Nomination as Best Supporting Actress for Elan (1971)

Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979)

Filmfare Nomination as Best Supporting Actress for Khamoshi: The Musical (1996)

Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award (1998)

Padma Shri, a civilian honour from the Indian government (2009)

(Farhat Jabeen/JPN)