Bollywood naatch girl of the fifties and sixties, Helen, received the Padma Shri last night from President Pratibha Patil as one of sixty-six winners of Padma awards, forty-eight of whom won the Padma Shri. In a gesture of humility, Helen took care when existing the stage no to show her back to the President, a gesture that was warmly applauded by the audience.
Helen, of Franco-Burmese extraction, emigrated to India with her family at the age of three after her father died in the war. The family was poor and Helen had to quit school in order to help support her family. She entered the movie industry in 1951 and was soon doing solo spots, getting her big break in Shakti Samanta’s Howrah Bridge in 1958.
A decade of item numbers and hit roles followed, some of the highlights being China Town, Singapore, Jaali Note, Junglee, Zindagi, Hercules, Tarzan Comes to Delhi, Teesri Manzil, Love and Murder, the exceptional Jewel Thief and Golden Eyes Secret Agent 077. In fact, no film of the 1960s could consider itself sophisticated if it didn’t include Helen somewhere in its cast.
Helen married Salim Khan in 1980 and is the step-mother of actor Salman Khan. She was last seen in the movie Marigold (2007) which starred Salman and Heroes actress Ali Larter.