Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Queen of Indian Cabaret

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!


meerasworld said...

Seeing helen dance didnt seem vulgar at all .It must have been fun dressing up like her and dancing!
But some of the ordinary, so called love songs of today's movies are way past the word vulgar.

scorpiogenius said...

Yes, undoubetly the queen of glamour, those days ;)

My fav was always the Sholay number "Mehbooba".. Its just magical!

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

I haven't seen too many videos of her but the ones I've seen, she is always exposing that huge stomach of hers while dancing, and it keeps wobbling like the head of some giant one-eyed squid. I find that highly discomfiting. Besides, she wears too much make-up for my comfort. It makes her look unreal.


u were a cute kid

Indyeah said...

I loved her too:)
she defined cool to me:)

this brought back many memories ...of dancing with a dupatta wrapped seductively(or so I thought:D)thinking that I was the next siren;)

mom used to gasp and then would burst out laughing:D

silverine said...

meerasworld: Agree with you. Helen was sensuous while most of todays item numbers are vulgar.

scorpiogenius: Magical indeed!!

Karthik: lol! What a horrible description! :p I think many guys would agree with you! :)

PD: We were very adventurous! :)

Indyeah: You are right! Very few Indian actresses can appear as cool as her! And the word 'siren' describes her very well! :)

Natasha said...

Glorious days. This bought back so many memories! :-)

Naomi Varghese said...

hahahaha we were such jangos! What fun!

Trish said...

I still cringe at the memories of our dances. They seem positively embarrassing now. But having said that, they were the most exciting cabaret available on 1st Cross!

Anonymous said...

Those were the days...sigh.


Abraham Tharakan said...

Interesting post. Helen, the beauty from Burma (?) had so many fans. I used to like her dances.

Poornima Menon said...

It is nice to read your reminiscences...:-)

laddu said...

even in mohabbatein-d way she danced with SRK, she can easily make d heroines of todays generation a run for their money....

Mind Curry said...

i am taking a print out of this for my dad, he will enjoy reading this :)

silverine said...

Nats: :D

Naoms: We were not jangos!! grr

Trish: LOL!!! 1st cross sure did rock...and roll!!

Viji: We had max fun but didn't we! :)

Abraham: She was indeed good looking!

Poornima: Thanks! :)

Laddu: You are right. All her recent appearances have been memorable!

MC: So sweet! I am sure he was a big fan of Helen like my Dad! :D

Smitha said...

Helen was magical! She was totally the Queen on Indian Caberet. She made it look so sensuous, not one bit vulgar or tacky! It takes serious talent to be able to pull that off!

I think she is a legend.. and nobody has come close to her!