The name Helen is synonymous with cabaret dances in Bollywood. She took item songs in Bollywood to dizzy heights so much that she was the most sought after actress for an item song in Bollywood in the ’50s and ’60s and ‘70s. Starting her career as an extra dancer in the chorus she raised to topmost position thanks to her mentor Cuckoo and of course her own talents.
It was Cuckoo with whom she did chorus dancer in the films like Shabistan and Awara. Cuckoo was impressed by her talent and recommended her to top producers. With super hit item songs like Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo… Howrah Bridge (1958), Piya Tu Ab To Aaja… Caravan (1971), Yeh Mera Dil… Don (1978). In fact, Helen was so popular among the audience that she had the potential to make a film hit solely hit on her item song. The film Inkaar (1977) was a huge flop when it released but the single item song O Mungada Mungada…. Became so popular that it saves the film from disaster! Helen thus has got immortalized as a dancer par excellence.
In the ’70s while Helen continued to rule the emergence of a few talented dancers like Bindu proved a challenge to Helen. The bold and beautiful Bindu, who rose to stardom with her item song Mera Naam hai Shabnam, Pyar se log mujhe Shabbo kehte hain in the Rajesh Khanna‘s hit film Kati Patang confessed that Helen has been her idol and she was inspired by Helen. Bindu has done some mesmerizing and seductive item songs like the famous song Hungama Hogaya… (Anhonee ) and Dil Jalon Ka Dil Jalake .. (Zanjeer), etc.
After Bindu, the other actress who made a name as an item girl in the ’70s was Aruna Irani. Raj Kapoor in his teenage love story Bobby gave her sizzling cabaret dance. The song Ae Ae Ae Phansa… became such a big hit that Aruna Irani became the numero uno item girl of the ’70s. Her popular item songs are Sapna Mera Tut Gaya ….(Khel Khel Mein), Meri Beri Ke Ber Mat Todo… (Anokhi Raat), Kya Ghazab Karte Ho Ji… (Love Story) etc.
Padma Khanna, like Bindu, became a star overnight with her sensual item number Husn Ke Lakhon Rang….in Dev Anand‘s hit film with Johny Mera Naam dance…..In fact, it would not be wrong to write that it was Padma Khanna, who started the trend of steaming hot and seductive items song with Husn Ke Lakhon Rang….In this song, she performs the Western style of ‘stripping’!! It was for the first time an actress was seen dropping her attire on the silver screen!! The audience went crazy and the movie became the highest money spinner of the year!