When it comes to sensuality, there is a thin but a very sharp line between looking purely sensual and repulsively vulgar. Helen undoubtedly falls in the first category. Purely sensual look with a perfect feminine body which is not obsessed with ultra sensual slimness, Helen ruled Hindi Film industry for more than three decades. It was the time when Hindi movies used to have separate characters for body exposure who are mostly vamps or club dancers. Leading actresses were all strictly taking care of their “pallus” and mostly displaying typical Indian women. Today’s generation will find this hard to digest because they are living in the era where the leading actresses expose lot more than Helen used to expose in her golden days. Helen brought non traditional looks but she not only merged in the industry but also became the integral part of many hit films of that time.
Helen as an unusually brilliant dancer imprinted her own style and image in the industry. When we evaluate her merits as a dancer we cannot forget the greats dancing talents in the industry at that time. Some of the leading actresses like VaijayantiMala, Hema Malini, Asha Parekh, Padmini were all known as skilled classical dancers though Hema Malini came in the later part. Soon Helen had to face tough competition from Bindu and Padma Khanna as a vamp and dancer but Helen proved to be superior to them and remained as an undisputed queen of Bollywood dancers. It was not easy to compete with trained classical dancers as well as some leading stars like Shammi Kapoor with unique dancing style and abilities. But Helen gave a memorable hit “China Town” with Shammi and they both blast the screen with unforgettable “Teesari manzil’s” “O Haseena Zulphon wali” song.
It’s difficult to point out her famous number from such wide and long span of career but there are some outstanding performances that will be remembered forever in the history of Bollywood. To count a few, “Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo” from “HawraBridge”, “Aa Jane jaa” from “Intequaam”, “Mehbooba Mehbooba” from “Sholey”, “Ye Mera Dil” from “Don”, “Piya Tu Ab To Aaja” from “Carvan”, “Mungda Mungda” from “Inkaar”, and ofcourse “Teesari Manzil” that is already mentioned. These are just few of the milestones of Helen’s career. Mostly she was lucky enough to be supported by equally sensual voice of Asha Bhosale which made the formidable combination of two enough to burn the screen. Interestingly “Intequaam” song “Aaa Jane Jaa” may be the only cabaret song sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Helen was an icing on the cake with her raw beauty and wonderful body movements, not missing a single bit.
Helen actually made a difference with other dancers when she also proved herself to be a brilliant actress. She was no more there just for a dance number but the part of the story as well. Even in the dance number she could win the edge over other stars. In the famous cabaret number “Ye Mera Dil Pray Ka Diwana” she was with Amitabh Bachchan. Bachchan was on the top during the “Don” days and it was not easy to steal the scene from the actor of his calibre. But Helen ignites the screen with her looks and dancing skills. In a suspense thriller “Gumnaam” Helen was with Mehmood, an acclaimed comedian, actor and superb dancer too. She was undoubtedly fantastic in this movie in front of the great actors like Pran, Madan Puri and Dhumal. She was nominated as a best supporting actress filmfare award for this movie. Eventually she won that for “Lahu ke do rang”.
She ruled like a screen goddess in those good old days which are the part of my life. Her looks, her body, her dances, her movements, her performances, her movies are the integral part of my generation. She could lit the environment with her stare. She could explode the screen with her dance. You could feel the heat while she was in the frame. Its very difficult to find another example of an actress who could make a perfect balance of class, dignity while performing sensual dance numbers. Helen was the perfect balance of class, beauty and talent.