Helen Ann Richardson (born 21 November 1938), popularly known as only Helen, is a Burma-born Indian film actress and dancer, working in Hindi films. She has received two Filmfare awards and has appeared in over 700 films, and is often cited as the most popular nautch dancer of her time. She was the inspiration for four films and a book.
Helen was introduced to Bollywood when a family friend, an actress known as Cukoo, helped her find jobs as a chorus dancer in the films Shabistan and Awara (1951). She was soon working regularly and was featured as a solo dancer in films such as Alif Laila (1954) and Hoor-e-Arab (1955).
She got her break in 1958, aged 19, when she performed the song “Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu” in Shakti Samanta’s film, Howrah Bridge, which was sung by Geeta Dutt. After that, offers started pouring in throughout the 1960s and 1970s. During her initial career, Geeta Dutt sang many songs for her. The Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle also frequently sang for Helen, particularly during the 1960s and the early 1970s. She was nominated for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award in 1965 for her role in Gumnaam. She played dramatic roles such as the rape victim in Shakti Samanta’s Pagla Kahin Ka (1970).
Writer Salim Khan helped her get roles in some of the films he was co-scripting with Javed Akhtar: Immaan Dharam, Don, Dostana, and Sholay. This was followed by a role in Mahesh Bhatt’s film Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979), for which she won a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award. In 1999 Helen was given India’s Filmfare lifetime achievement award.
Helen officially retired from movies in 1983, but she has since then appeared in a few guest roles such as Khamoshi: The Musical (1996) and Mohabbatein (2000). She also made a special appearance as the mother of real-life step-son Salman Khan’s character in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. She also appeared in Humko Deewana Kar Gaye in 2006. Helen was selected for the Padma Shri awards of 2009 along with Aishwarya Rai and Akshay Kumar.