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Helen: Let’s take a look at Bollywood’s first item girl and cabaret queen’s journey

Helen Ann Richardson is the first Indian item girl of Bollywood. In 1958, the actress performed the first Bollywood item song Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu in the film Howrah Bridge. Helen was a breath of fresh air, challenging all the rules at a time when most of the onscreen heroines were Sati Savitri, covered with a cloth till the top of the table, and endured constant hardships, making sacrifices.  

But Helen was the antithesis of the ’50s and ’60s, wearing western dresses, drinking alcohol, dancing, and having inexplicable premarital relationships. So, when the heroine suffered losses throughout the film, Helen had fun on screen, but off-screen her life was anything but fun.

She has struggled a lot to survive at each stage of her life. We have a lot to know about the Bollywood actress, her journey, and her struggles.

Helen had a difficult beginning.

Helen Ann Richardson was born in Burma to a Burmese mother and an Anglo-Indian father. Her father died when she was little in World War I. 

After her father’s death, her mother married a British man. After Japan’s occupation of Burma, she and her family fled to Kolkata but faced hunger, disease, and death on their way to the city.

Due to all these struggles, Helen had to leave her schooling and got a job early to support her family.

She dropped out of school in Kolkata and joined films as a background dancer, her first stint in Awara in 1951.

Her first big break was in the film “Howrah Bridge” in 1958 when she was just 19 years old.

The item girl Helen fell for the incorrect man

The actress did not become famous immediately after her debut as it was a struggle. It is difficult to survive as an individual in Bollywood. 

She needed protection and cooperation. Unfortunately, the man she fell in love with was a B-grade filmmaker PN Arora who was 27 years older than her. 

She left PN Arora in 1974 after a 17-year relationship, heartbroken and bankrupt. He had duped her with everything, even her house was confiscated by the bank.

She met screenwriter Salim Khan in 1962, a friendship opened up immediately. Salim helped her professionally and gave her a shoulder to cry. Being the top screenwriter in those days helped her get used to the film, especially after her bankruptcy.



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Bhagyaa Kadam


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