Carla left a comment here on MemsaabStory early on saying: “Helen is completely sui generis.” (I love learning new phrases, especially clever ones.) Paint It Pink puts Helen in proper perspective also in her blog’s mission statement. I have myself weighed in on the joys of Helen many times before, but I recently decided that I needed to devote some time to her again. I know there are one or two people out there who don’t care for her, but there are also one or two people out there who think Sarah Palin would make a fine VP (or P!). You know who you are, and you can go away from here (well, if it’s just a Helen thing you can stay :-) (sorry but the election is beginning to get on my last good nerve).
I am also pretty sure that I will hear from people about some Helen “classics” that aren’t here: “How could you forget…???!!!” I probably haven’t “forgotten” but have chosen not to include it. Many songs that people cite as her best aren’t my favorites (though there are very very few Helen songs that I just downright don’t like). These are the songs I would put on a “Helen’s Greatest Hits” CD if I only had room for ten, because I love the music. In my usual shallow way I also factored in Helen’s appearance, and general staging and ambience, just to help out when I was waffling. Finally, I know that there are none of her early songs here, but I tend to adore the OTT kitsch of her 60′s and 70′s oeuvre and I had to draw the line somewhere.
So let’s have at it, shall we? Starting from number ten:
10. “Khilta Hua Shabab” from Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar (1973), music by Shankar Jaikishan. Helen dressed as Carmen Miranda! Helen with a lampshade on her head! Helen in a harem outfit! Fab.
9. “Mere Jawani Pyar Ko” from Upaasna (1971), music by Kalyanji Anandji. Helen seduces a statue onstage, finally turning it into a real…well…man, I guess. She looks totally hot, and the audience of mostly white people is astounded and thrilled. I would be astounded and thrilled if I could find this film with subtitles.
8. “Yeh Pal Chanchal” from Kalicharan (1976), music by Kalyanji Anandji. She’s pushing 40 here, but Helen still rocks the room (and Shatrughan Sinha). A lovely flamenco-flavoured number. Plus, Santa Claus! With balloons!
7. “Jeena Kaisa Hai Pyar” from Kathputli (1971), music by Kalyanji Anandji. Alas, it’s not on YouTube that I can find, and I don’t have the film—although I have been looking for it forever. You can play it here but I’ve got no pictures :-( It would probably be higher on the list had I ever actually seen it picturized.
Edited to add: Now I have!
6. “Hello Everybody” from Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati (1969), music by Kalyanji Anandji. Ostrich feathers gracing her head, Helen dances around the club in a transparent nightie with four nattily dressed backup dancers in this happy, bubbly number, spreading joy.
5. “Haye Mere Paas” from Shikar (1968), music by Shankar Jaikishan. Helen flirts musically with Sanjeev Kumar to mislead him in the murder enquiry he is conducting, and in which she is a chief suspect. Fab movie, lovely song, beautiful Helen, even with a beehive on her head!
4. “Is Duniya Mein” from Gumnaam (1965), music by Shankar Jaikishan. Helen has three great songs in this film (which is FULL of great songs), but this is my favorite of those, mostly because of Pran. I love how casual and carefree he looks (he’s usually so buttoned-up) as he claps along and then drags her into the sea; and he is my favorite person opposite Helen (besides Shammi natch). Plus, Helen is breathtakingly gorgeous, even more than usual.
3. “O Haseena Zulfon Wale” from Teesri Manzil (1966), music by RD Burman. This is one “classic” I am on board with all the way. And not just because of Shammi (although he doesn’t hurt). I love the set: the giant eyeball, the giant table lamps, everything!
Well, maybe Shammi has a huge amount to do with it.
2. “Ae Naujawan” from Apradh (1972), music by Kalyanji Anandji. Apparently the entity which owns the rights to this song is very vigilant about removing it from places to view it online, which is just unbelievably stupid and short-sighted: it’s the best advertisement for buying the film that anyone could ever hope for!
The best things about this are the sublimely lounge-y music; the set (complete with goris in bikinis); Feroz Khan’s drunken determination to morph Helen into Mumtaz and back:
and the sombrero-wearing guitar player at the beginning.
1. “Jane Anjaane Yahan” from Jane Anjaane (1971), music by Shankar Jaikishan. Although this is a Shammi Kapoor film, he isn’t in the song until the very end; but the song is fantastically lively and upbeat, with young Vinod Khanna and KN Singh, and this guy (right, below) who is always in a ruffled shirt, and is my favorite anonymous backup dancer of all time (and if anyone could tell me his name I would be forever in your debt). I love this song!!!
In my next life, I want to BE Helen.