Helen (actress)

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Helen at Kallista Spa opening.jpg
Born Helen Richardson
(1938-11-21) 21 November 1938 (age 76)[1]
Yangon, Burma
Occupation Actress, Dancer
Years active 1951–present
Spouse(s) Salim Khan (1981–present)
Children Arpita Khan(Adopted daughter)
Relatives Salman Khan (step-son)
Arbaaz Khan (step-son)
Sohail Khan (step-son)
Alvira Khan (step-daughter)

Helen Jairag Richardson is a Burmese-born Indian film actress and dancer of Anglo-Burmese descent, working in Hindi films. She is the step-mother of Bollywood megastar Salman Khan. She has appeared in over 500 films.[2] She is often cited as the most popular item number dancer of her time.[3] She was the inspiration for four films and a book.[4]

Early life and background[edit]

Helen was born on November 21, 1938 in Burma to an Anglo-Indian father and Burmese mother.[5] She has a brother Roger and a sister Jennifer. Her father died during the Second World War. The family trekked to Mumbai in 1943 in order to escape from the Japanese occupation of Burma. Helen told Filmfare magazine during an interview in 1964, "we trekked alternately through wilderness and hundreds of villages, surviving on the generosity of people, for we were penniless, with no food and few clothes. Occasionally, we met British soldiers who provided us with transport, found us refuge and treated our blistered feet and bruised bodies and fed us. By the time we reached Dibrugarh in Assam, our group had been reduced to half. Some had fallen ill and been left behind, some had died of starvation and disease. My mother miscarried along the way. The survivors were admitted to the Dibrugarh hospital for treatment. Mother and I had been virtually reduced to skeletons and my brother's condition was critical. We spent two months in hospital. When we recovered, we moved to Calcutta".[6] Helen had to quit her schooling to support her family because her mother's salary as a nurse was not enough to feed a family of four.[5] In a documentary called Queen of the Nautch girls, Helen said she was 19 years old in 1957 when she got her first big break in Howrah Bridge.


Helen on May 1967

Helen was introduced to Bollywood when a family friend, an actress known as Cukoo, helped her find jobs as a chorus dancer in the films Shabistan and Awara (1951). She was soon working regularly and was featured as a solo dancer in films such as Alif Laila (1954), Hoor-e-Arab (1955), and the popular number "Mr. John O Baba Khan" in the film Baarish.

Helen got her break 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 1960s and 1970s. During her initial career, Geeta Dutt sang many songs for her. The Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle also frequently sang for Helen, particularly during the 1960s and the early 70s.

She was nominated for the Filmfare best supporting actress award in 1965 for her role in Gumnaam. She played dramatic roles such as the rape victim in Shakti Samanta's Pagla Kahin Ka (1970).

Writer Salim Khan helped her get roles in some of the films he was co-scripting with Javed Akhtar: 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 a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award. In 1999 Helen was given India's Filmfare lifetime achievement award.

Helen officially retired from movies in 1983, but she has since then appeared in a few guest roles such as Khamoshi: The Musical (1996) and Mohabbatein (2000). She also made a special appearance as the mother of real-life step-son Salman Khan's character in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.. She also appeared in Humko Deewana Kar Gaye in 2006. Helen was selected for the Padma Shri awards of 2009 along with Aishwarya Rai and Akshay Kumar.

Non-acting career[edit]

Helen also performed numerous stage shows in London, Paris, and Hong Kong.

In 1973, Helen, Queen of the Nautch Girls, a 30-minute documentary film from Merchant Ivory Films, was released. Anthony Korner directed and narrated the film. A book about Helen was published by Jerry Pinto in 2006, titled The Life and Times of an H-Bomb,[7][8] which went on to win the National Film Award for Best Book on Cinema in 2007.

Helen appeared as a Judge in the semi finals and finals of the 2009 Indian Dancing Queen (Dance Contest).

Personal life[edit]

For 16 years from 1957 to 1973, Helen lived with film director P.N Arora who was her benefactor. She broke up with him on her 35th birthday.[9] In 1981, Helen married Salim Khan, and became his second wife and they adopted a girl, Arpita. Salman Khan, Sohail Khan and Arbaaz Khan are her stepsons. She has acted as Salman Khan's 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. Helen has a niece Nina and nephew Nikhil.

Popular songs performed by Helen[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "Helen celebrates 72nd birthday on Nov 21st". bbc.co.uk. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Jerry Pinto (1 March 2006). Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-303124-6. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Mukherjee, Madhurita (3 February 2003). "Revamping Bollywood's sexy vamps". Times of India. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Helen". OutlookIndia. 17 April 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Helen Richardson". liveindia.com. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  6. ^ [://www.upperstall.com/people/helen "Helen Upperstall profile"]. Upperstall.com. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 25 Feb 2013. 
  7. ^ 'Helen: The Life and the Times of an H-Bomb'[dead link]
  8. ^ Rediff Interview / Jerry Pinto 29 March 2006.
  9. ^ "Salim vows to marry Helen". picasaweb.google.com. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "1st Filmfare Awards 1953". Deep750.googlepages.com. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
Further reading
  • Pinto, Jerry. Helen; The Life and Times of An H-Bomb. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2006. ISBN 0-14-303124-4.

External links[edit]