I first saw Helen in a Hindi movie video when I was in the sixth standard. I remember being absolutely awestruck and blown away by her, her costumes, instant costume changes and the way she peeled clothes away from her body leaving another garment beneath. I was hooked and with it began a long fascination and fan ship of a person who I think is a really gifted artist and dancer. Thereafter I saw every single of Helen's dances from the huge collection of movies my Dad has and I can safely say that I am amongst her greatest fans.
Soon, I and my friends were dancing behind closed doors to Helen's beats wearing lots of dupattas that we peeled away like Helen. Strings of pearl and colorful beads strung across our hair and colorful tinsel festooned on our bodies. My brother M would call us walking Christmas Trees. The poor guy would be scared out of his wits when he would bump into a girl walking out of my room wearing several layers of dupatta, loud make up, pearls dangling from her hands and hair and a dozen other “home-made” Helen accessories. My Dad tried hard to ensure that we never saw him laughing, my mom was sure were going to hell and my eldest bro wanted to know if this was the latest fashion.
My aunt from Frankfurt chipped in and she was our single biggest source of fashion accessories and sheer clothes that made all us feel like little Helens. It pays having an aunt with only sons.
The Helen obsession lasted long and let’s just say that most of us became specialists in Helen numbers. My mother could not understand our Helen fixation, but what she did not know was that the sheer color and glitz of a Helen number could not be rivaled by a Britney or a Nelly or the other reigning melody queens of our wonder years.
Aa Janne Ja is and will always be my favorite Helen number though I love each and every song pictured on her. The ostrich feathers, large bird cages, colorful ribbons that passed off as skirts, black tights and fantastic make up were oh so mind blowing and out of this world.
I think we spent a mini fortune going to Raja Market to buy pearls and stones to use in our Helen numbers. I still have a big box of them somewhere. Remnants of an era that is still reigns though all of us have grown up now.
I wonder if there is any Indian girl who has not been fascinated by Helen. Recently my NRI cousin dropped in home and I showed her a Helen number. When she went back to Los Angeles she carried every single Helen number she could get her hands on burned on a DVD! Recently she put up the pictures of a party she organized for her friends at home. The theme of the party was Helen. When I saw the photos it hit me. Deja vu to the extreme. The pearls, the rhinestones, dupattas and other paraphernalia that we used was all there, replicated on a bunch of Caucasian, Latino and Indians teenagers! A legend lives on.
I am proud that I was able to introduce yet another generation to the mystery and aura of the most glamorous Cabaret dancer ever!