An ode to Helen, Bollywood’s favorite vixen

I first became familiar with the Bollywood actress Helen when I saw this DVD on the discount rack at one of my local Indian entertainment stores:

This is the exact description on the back of the case:

“Kamini is a prostitute. She had taken up the profession after being raped by a rich man.  One day she met a young man, Amar, the son of a wealthy father, away from her usual haunts, and was quite taken up with him.  Slowly their liking developed into love. When Kamini told him the truth about herself, Amar, stood by her. Even his mother agreed with her son. But when Kamini met Amar’s father, she was in for the shock of her life. He was the very man…

After reading that I absolutely had to buy it.  Actually watching the film was another story; the DVD has been sitting on my shelf unopened for nearly a year now.  But I feel like I should dig it out again after finding this excellent post at Memsaab Story about the film:

I would assume that in 1974 India it was considered (and probably criticized for being) “titillating” but to my western eyes thirty-six years later it is compellingly and realistically tawdry and sad, and an excellent attempt to illuminate the injustice inherent in a woman being made to pay an ongoing price for her own victimization. It is a film that has stuck in my memory—and revisiting it for this blog is long overdue (it’s not a movie I want to see over and over again, though: it is pretty grim). (Read the full post here.)

Here’s a song from the movie:

I thought of Helen this weekend because she was the special guest judge on Friday’s episode of Dance India Dance. At 70*, she is still all kinds of awesome.  The show paid tribute to her @ 8:20 in the video below:

*Does anyone believe she is actually 70? She seems much older in this clip.  I suppose she could have started her career as a teenager, but I’m not fully buying it.

No post about Helen is complete without a link to one of her “scandalous” songs, so here’s “Ye mera dil yaar ka diwana” from Don.



4 thoughts on “An ode to Helen, Bollywood’s favorite vixen

  1. Hi Lakshmi 🙂 Do watch Call Girl, but only when you are in the mood for something serious and sad! Helen was born in either 1938 or 1939 (depends on where you look), and she did start dancing at a very very young age to help support her family. Lady can still dance too! Cheers.

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