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Down Memory Lane - When Helen
Visited Mombasa In The Year 1979

Coastweek-- LAST WEEK’S story on Bollywood’s first sophisticated seductress, Helen, brought back a lot of memories.

Helen to me, has been the epitome of the vamp that brought many a heroine to shame on the silver screen.

Despite dancing to cabaret numbers in some, what was then, skimpy and figure-hugging costumes, she never once looked vulgar or made any of her dance movements look cheap.

The minute she came on the screen, everyone, be it an adult or child, enjoyed her performance and there was a time, that a movie could not be made without at least one dance scene with Helen.

She set the stage on fire, a kind that warmed rather than burned.

In 1979, when I was a budding columnist with Coastweek and still learning the ropes, Helen, then a superstar, came to Mombasa for a stage show, with some other artists.

I had the opportunity of meeting and interviewing her, one of the very first interviews I conducted.

Heading to the Oceanic Hotel, I arrived earlier than our appointed time and she came a little late from her shopping trip to town.

As soon as she swept into the lobby and knew I was waiting, she took me straight up to her room and made me comfortable as she proceeded to remove her make up in front of me.


Helen with Columnist Anjum Asodia | Coastweek

  Coastweek-- Bollywood’s first sophisticated seductress Helen in Mombasa  with Coastweek’s Columnist Anjum Asodia in 1979.

Now these few acts would make an Indian film star today shudder, and even in those days when Indian film stars would keep their distance, stay aloof and expect to be treated like royalty (and I met many after Helen).

An autograph by Helen | Coastweek

This warmth and friendliness which was second-nature to Helen just came through and we had a lovely chat that afternoon.

We talked about her difficult upbringing when she had to flee Burma with her small family and come to India and start earning to feed her family at a very young age.

At a time when nothing could be imported into India, she confided how every time she went on a foreign trip, especially for shootings or shows, she would buy all her outfits and the special feathers which were Helen’s hallmark, for her on-screen performances.

We met the next day, backstage after her performance and she remembered me and hugged me warmly, taking a picture and signing my autograph book.

Having interviewed many celebrities in my career at Coastweek, I will definitely say that Helen was among my top favourites and that is why that meeting 39 years ago is still so fresh in my mind.

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