Helen Ann Richardson Khan is an Indian actress and dancer who goes by the name Helen. She has performed in almost 700 films in Hindi cinema, making her a prominent performer. In a seventy-year career, she is noted for her supporting, character, and guest appearance roles.
Helen is a two-time Filmfare Award winner and is widely regarded as one of the most popular nautch dancers of her generation. Helen received the Padma Shri award from the Indian government in 2009. She was the subject of four movies and a book.
Helen Ann Richardson was born in Rangoon, Burma, on November 21, 1938, to a Burmese father and an Anglo Indian mother. George Desmier was her father’s name, and Marlene was her mother’s. She has a sister named Jennifer and a brother named Roger. During World War II, their father died. In order to flee the Japanese takeover of Burma, the family journeyed to Dibrugarh, Assam, in 1943.
Her mother’s pay as a nurse was insufficient to sustain a family of four, so she dropped out of school to help support her family. Helen said she was 19 years old when she received her first major break in Howrah Bridge in 1958, according to a documentary called Queen of the Nautch Girls.
Helen was first exposed to Bollywood (Hindi cinema) when a family friend, actress Cuckoo, assisted her in landing roles as a group dancer in the films Shabistan (1951) and Awaara (1951). She was immediately in demand and appeared in films such as Alif Laila (1954) and Hoor-e-Arab as a solo dancer (1955). She also appeared in the film Mayurpankh (1954) as a street singer.
Helen’s first marriage, in 1957, was to Dil Daulat Duniya director Prem Narayan Arora, who was 27 years her senior. In 1974, she divorced him. Helen married Salim Khan, a well-known Bollywood screenwriter, in 1981.
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