Actor, Dance Master Hindi

Helen

Helen Biography

Birth Name: Helen Jairag Richardson

Born : 21 November 1939, in Rangoon

'Cabaret Queen' Helen has appeared in more than 700 Hindi films till date. She got her first big break in 1958 at the age of 19, when she performed to the song 'Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu' in the film Howrah Bridge.

Helen Jairag Richardson Khan was born to a Burmese-Anglo-Indian family on 21 November 1938. Her father died in the Second World War. After much hardship and losing many relations on the road, the family reached Calcutta. Helen gave up schooling at an early age and started working as a chorus dancer to support her family.

Helen stepped into the world of cinema with Shabistan and Awara (1951) and worked regularly in many films. She was spotted in Alif Laila (1953), Hoor-e-Arab (1955) and Baarish (1957) as a solo dancer. But she hit the big time only with 'Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu', sung by Geeta Dutt, in Shakti Samanta's hit Howrah Bridge. From then on there was no looking back.

Helen set a record by appearing in 500 films by 1972. Among these her performances to 'O Haseena Zulfonwali' (Teesri Manzil, 1966), 'Aa Jaane Jaa' (Intequam, 1969) and 'Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja' (Caravan, 1971) remain the most memorable. But some of her biggest hits were still to come.

Mostly known for her seductive and perky cabaret performances and for playing a vamp, Helen received her first Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actress in 1965 for her role in Raja Nawathe' s Gumnaam. In Shakti Samanta's Pagla Kahin Ka (1970), she played a rape victim and earned accolades.

Writer and husband-to-be Salim Khan prepared the way for Helen to appear in some of the biggest blockbusters of the next decade. Films such as Sholay (1975), Immaan Dharam (1977) and Don (1978) made her a star. The sultriness and passion of her performances in 'Yeh Mera Dil' (Don), 'Mehbooba Mehbooba' (Sholay), and 'Aaj Ki Raat' (Anamika, 1973) remain unmatched. She grabbed her next Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Mahesh Bhatt's Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979).

Helen married Salim Khan in 1981, becoming his second wife and stepmother to his four children. She has played a big role in keeping the large family together with her co-wife. She officially retired from films in 1983 but continues to appear as a guest artiste from time to time, as in Khamoshi: The Muscial (1996), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and Mohabbatein (2000). Geeta Dutt in the early days and, later, Asha Bhosle mostly lent their voices to songs picturized on her, making for iconic combinations.

In 1999 Helen was awarded the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement award for carving a niche of her own in Indian cinema. She has also performed at stage shows in London, Paris and Hong Kong. A 30-minute documentary, Helen, The Queen Of Nautch Girls, was made by Merchant Ivory Films under the direction of Anthony Corner in 1973. The shooting of the film cost close to $17,000 in those days and established Helen as one of the big stars of 'Bollywood' in the West. In 2006, a book, The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, by Jerry Pinto was published and received the National film award for Best Book on Cinema in 2007.

Family Tree

Spouse
Salim Khan (1981)