Mahesh Bhatt opened up about why he gave Helen, who turned 85 on November 21, the opportunity to go beyond dance numbers, and showcase her acting abilities in his second film as director, Lahu Ke Do Rang. In a 2022 interview with Rediff, the filmmaker spoke about Helen’s reaction to his offer. He also recalled how someone told him he was ‘pagal (crazy)’ for not shooting a dance song, but an ’emotional film’ with Helen. Also read: Salim Khan on first wife Salma Khan’s reaction when he told her he wanted to marry Helen
‘The response was incredulous’
Mahesh Bhatt told the portal, “When we were filming in Bombay’s (Mumbai’s) Natraj Studio, a reputed choreographer shooting on the next stage, walked up to me, a junior director, and asked, ‘Suna hai Helen ke saath shooting kar raha hai, dance hai kya (I heard you are shooting with Helen, is it a dance)?’ Shaking my head, I replied, ‘Nahin, emotional film hai (No, it is an emotional film).’ The response was incredulous: ‘Helen ke saath emotional film bana raha hai, pagal hai kya (You are making an emotional film with Helen, are you crazy)!'”
Mahesh further recalled Helen‘s reaction, saying, “Helen ji herself was happy to do my film, but she too was nervous about whether she would be able to pull off the role that demanded not song-and-dance but emotional drama. She was also surprised I wanted to cast her opposite a top star like Vinod Khanna. However, once she jumped on board, she gave every bit of herself to the role. She went beyond my expectations and not only ‘looked’ Suzy but with her talent and depth, debunked the myth that an actress is limited by her image. Give her a strong role and she will deliver. The audience loved her then, they still do and as they say, time is the best critic.”
Helen’s dance numbers
Helen was seen as Suzy, Vinod Khanna‘s lover, and the mother of his son Suraj, played by Danny Denzongpa, in Mahesh Bhatt’s 1979 directorial Lahu Ke Do Rang. At the time, she was still a dancer in the Hindi film industry, who did chartbuster item numbers.
Some of her famous dance numbers include Yeh Mera Dil, which was featured in the 1978 movie Don and was sung by Asha Bhosle. The movie starred Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman in lead roles.
Helen’s Piya Tu Ab To Aaja from the 1971 movie Caravan, also sung by Asha Bhosle, is pure magic and popular even today. Mehbooba Mehbooba, from the 1975 classic Sholay, and O Haseena Zulfonwale Jane Jahan from the 1966 movie Teesri Manzil are some of Helen’s other superhit songs.