Helen Profile

Helen Jairag Richardson, known as Helen in bollywood, born on 21 October 1939 in Burma to an Anglo Indian father and Burmese mother, is a Hindi film actress and dancer. She is often cited as the most popular dancer of the item number in her time. Helen has a brother Roger and a sister Jennifer. Her father died during the Second World War. The family migrated to Mumbai in 1943 during World War II, but her mother’s salary as a nurse was not enough, and Helen had to quit her schooling to support the family.

She soon discovered she had a flair for dancing, while going through training in Kathak. At that time family friend Cuckoo was the leading dancer in Hindi films of that era. Helen got a break as a chorus dancer in Shabistan(1951), when Cuckoo recommended her. Helen was young and still-in-her-early-teens. Her performance in the song “Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu” in O.P. Nayyar’s hit film, Howrah Bridge in 1958, gave her first major hit song.

Helen is best remembered for playing as vamp or a dancer in Bollywood movies of the 1960s and 70s. She shot to fame with her glitzy dance sequences and cabaret numbers. The Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle has voiced many a sensuous and thumping songs for Helen. The flamboyance and grace with which she carried these songs, is remarkable.

The demand of this elusive and seductive actress started growing by leaps and bounds and with her numerous roles as a vamp or a cabaret dancer she came to be known as the Cabaret Queen. She met with little success in her roles as a leading lady, but the so called ‘item numbers’ kept her quite busy and in the limelight for years to come.

1970’s were difficult times with changing tastes of Indian cinema and coming up of the younger lot who could perform cabaret numbers with same ease they would play the leading role.  Then came the Merchant Ivory’s 30-minute documentary in 1973, “Helen, Queen of the Nautch Girls”. The idea for the documentary came from Anthony Korner, and was narrated by Merchant Ivory. The plot of the film, which was made in a modest budget of $17,000, revolved around the most popular dancer in Bombay musical films — and the documentary portrayed and presented Helen.

To the western world as the reigning undisputed star actress cum dancer of Bollywood. The documentary also included her famous typewriter dance scene from “Bombay Talkie” the critically acclaimed Merchant Ivory film.

Helen also performed numerous stage shows in London, Paris, and Hong Kong. The resurgent career had taken a fresh new turn and she started getting offers. Later writer Salim Khan came to help her out with good roles in some of the movies he was co-scripting with Javed Akhtar: Imaam Dharam, Don, and Dostana. Then came a much demanding role in Mahesh Bhatt’s film Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979), and she won a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award.

Helen married Salim Khan, and became his second wife in 1980 and they adopted a girl, Arpita. Salman Khan is her stepson.

Even after retiring from the screen a long time back, Helen continued to make few occasional guest appearances in 1999 and 2000. In Mohabbatein, she plays a no non sense Head of a girl’s school who suddenly shakes a leg on the dance floor, much to the surprise and entertainment of the audience. Her special appearance as Salman Khan’s  mother in the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, was much appreciated. She continues to surprise and shock, pleasantly of course, audiences across all genres even today. Her journey in the Hindi cinema has been long and fruitful and she has left quite some memorable performances for movie buffs to cherish.


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)


Marigold (2007 film),
Humko Deewana Kar Gaye,
Anjaane: The Unknown,
Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha,
Shararat, Mohabbatein,
Aakhri Sanghursh, Khamoshi:
Aansoo Bane Angaray, Akayla,
Naya Bakra, Pakhandi,
Daulat Ke Dushman,
Chorni, Kachche Heere,
Bombay 405 Miles, and others

Name              : Helen
Nick Name     :  Tomboy
Date of Birth:  2 October, 1942
Zodiac Sign    :  Libra
Eye Color       :  Black
Hair Color      :  Black
Birth Place     :  Bangalore
Profession       : Dancer and Actress
Education       :  J B Petit School
Spouse            :  Salim Khan
Debut Film     :  Awaara

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