Helen Richardson Khan, better known as Helen, is famous for her seductive glamour, exotic beauty and moves that set the dance floor ablaze. The queen of cabaret was a heady mix of east and west, both in her Anglo-Burmese heritage and the dance numbers she would perform, which often blended western moves and costumes with Hindi lyrics and Indian melodrama.
First Film: Barely a teenager, Helen started in the the Hindi film industry as a chorus dancer for films such as Awara and soon climbed the ranks to duet dances. Her first solo dance was seen in the 1952 film, Alif Laila where one can see the influence of her mentor, Cukoo, an early pioneer in Indian film dance.
Claim to fame: "Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu" from the 1958 film Howrah Bridge took Helen to new heights. Only 17 years of age, Helen's graceful moves and charismatic smile charmed audiences. The song is considered a classic and a major stepping stone in Helen's career.
Did you know: When Burma was invaded by the Japanese in 1943, Helen along with her mother, brother and sister fled the country by foot. Subsisting for days on flowers, grass and boiled rice water, they were soon discovered by British troops and were taken to safety in Assam. The family struggled with poverty, as Helen's mother could barely support the family on a nurse's salary, until Helen's career in films took off.
Ticket to Hall of Fame: Starring in over 500 films and creating her own place in Indian pop culture with chart busters such as "O Haseena Zulfowali", "Piya Tu Ab To Aaja", "Mehbooba Mehbooba", and "Yeh Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Diwana" Helen's influence can be seen to this day, especially in solo heroine songs. Sexy, sensuous but never vulgar, the enigmatic dancer is considered a sex symbol and an icon of the Indian silver screen.