Helen The Life and Times of an H Bomb PDF/EPUB Ä The

5 thoughts on “Helen The Life and Times of an H Bomb

  1. says:

    I won’t go so far as to say that Helen was the first Hindi film actress I remember seeing that would be Shakila since CID was the first Hindi film I remember watching But I distinctly remember being about 10 years old watching Chitrahaar and being very excited because an old favourite of mine a song I had till then only heard and never seen was going to come on in Chitrahaar there would always be a sort of intertitle between songs a single frame in which the name of the next song the film it was from and the names of the music director the lyricist and the singers would be listedThis song was Mera naam Chin Chin Choo and my feet were already tapping when it began All that frenetic movement those men in sailor suits dancing about The energy so electric that it even seemed to transmit itself to the musicians The infectiousness of it allAnd Helen Mera naam Chin Chin Choo Howrah Bridge 1958 was a fitting introduction to Helen since it was the song that catapulted her into the realm that she was to rule over for much of the next three decades It was also as Jerry Pinto insightfully points out in his book Helen The Life and Times of a Bollywood H Bomb a precursor of things to come This song was an indication of the space Helen would occupy in Hindi cinemaMiss Chin Chin Choo is an ingénue here than anything else offering only a certain physical energy and a bodily charm She is surrounded by what will later become a standard trope of the Helen figure a group of male dancers Her name establishes her alienness Her use of English establishes her westernization underlined by the dress she is wearing the honky tonk music and the way she dances with the sailors This the taking of a certain song or scene and analyzing it to draw inferences about a character or even about tropes in cinema is one of the main reasons for my liking Pinto’s book a lot At the very start of the book Pinto explains that though he tried umpteen times to get hold of Helen he could not true to her past history of interactions with the paparazzi or others looking for interviews she shunned the curiosity Pinto therefore was left to gather whatever meagre information he could get from the rare interview one in Savvy for example in which Helen did condescend to speak about herselfThe personal angle the biography is therefore limited It talks briefly of how Helen was born to a French father and a mother Marlene who was half Spanish half Burmese When her husband died Marlene married again this time a Britisher named Richardson whose last name Helen adopted During World War II Mr Richardson died and when the Japanese attacked Burma and occupied it Marlene Helen then three years old and Helen’s baby brother trekked from Burma into India They washed up in Bombay which was where years later a 12 year old Helen had to drop out of school and begin learning dance Later thanks to the dancer Cuckoo who played cards with Marlene—or it might have been her parents who played with Marlene Helen got her first break in films with Shabistan 1951That barring a passing and non salacious reference to Helen’s relationship with the film maker PN Arora followed by her subseuent relationship with and finally marriage to Salim Khan is the extent of Pinto’s discussion of Helen’s personal lifeThe rest of this book—nearly all of it—is about the onscreen Helen Pinto divides this into several chapters in which he analyzes different aspects of the women Helen played in the several hundred not likely thousand as has been uoted at times but which Pinto disagrees with films in which Helen appeared He also examines broader aspects of cinema in the process including tropes characters and styles For instance in The Woman Who Could Not Care Pinto discusses the vamp beginning with the legendary Theda Bara and going on to discuss how a newly independent India’s cinema found a counterpoint to the Mother India image in the vamp—and how this implied that the vamp to be completely and utterly distinct from the pure traditional virtuous Indian sati savitri that was exemplified in the heroine had to be cast as a complete outsiderBollywood's version of the vamp white skinned Westernized exulting in her own sexuality the very obvious 'bad girl' was exemplified of course in Helen who by virtue of being in reality not merely onscreen part white Westernized and unabashedly comfortable with her body was pretty much made for the part The rest was added on by film makers The costumes Helen wore the songs she lip synced to the props that featured in her dances the way fellow dancers actors and extras fitted into her dances all of these and contributed to the Helen persona as Pinto sets out to show usPinto doesn't resort to an outright chronological progression of Helen's films Instead each chapter is devoted to a different aspect of the vamp that Helen portrayed In one chapter he creates a sort of taxonomy of the vamp the white goddess the indicator of debauchery a hero stepping into a space where Helen was dancing automatically indicated to the audience that he was now stepping into a den of vice the teacher the moll Then in another chapter Pinto looks at the different types of songs Helen danced to Songs of seduction of course; but also songs of mockery songs of misdirection and With each assertion and discussion Pinto describes scenes and songs galore from Helen's oeuvre complete with relevant back stories uotes of lyrics and so on the entire argument coming together to support a theoryBesides the fact that he's done a good deal of research into Helen's films what I really liked about Pinto's book is the intelligent and very keen dissection he carries out of the Helen persona I have seen a lot of Helen films Pinto provides a filmography—which he admits is not complete—at the end of the book and I figured I have seen Helen films than Pinto has but there were so many things he pointed out here that I'd never noticedIt's easy to see how Ruby dying in Teesri Manzil or Kitty being killed in Gumnaam or Helen's character dying in countless other films is an indication that the vamp is just too bad for redemption even when she has a heart of gold —but to find a connection between that and Amitabh Bachchan's character dying in everything from Sholay to Deewar to Muaddar ka Sikandar? Now that was something I hadn't realized But when Pinto writes about it and explains it it makes perfect sense Similarly there's the fascinating discussion about Helen acting as the love interest of comedians—Johnny Walker Mehmood Rajendranath etc—in film after film I would have thought this was a simple case of a bit of comic relief and a secondary romantic track to balance out the relatively 'serious' melodrama of the main track But no Pinto dissects this too and shows through various examples how there's a subliminal message here aimed at reinforcing the virtues and heroism of the hero and heroineAnd so on and so forth Pinto examines several other aspects of the vamp that Helen played even when her character may have been portrayed in a sympathetic light as in Woh Kaun Thi? or Pagla Kahin Ka After tracing her dancing career till it petered out completely in the 1980s Pinto writes about how Helen reinvented herself in the late 1990s and the early years of the 2000s this book was published in 2006 as the motherly figure in films like Khamoshi Mohabbatein etc He ends with a bit about how Helen has been paid tributes by knockoffs in films by being referenced in the admittedly rare films about film making and the world of cinema By the thousands who grew up loving Helen and who insist that “there was never anything vulgar about Helen” This is not a book you should pick up if all you want to know is the gossip surrounding Helen In fact it’s not even a book for those only interested in Helen’s personal life salacious or no What it is is a very good analysis of the onscreen phenomenon that was Helen It’s very intelligent incisive and insightful Plus Pinto has a good sense of humour which especially comes into play when talking about some of the loony B Grade films Helen appeared inAnother magician this time one with evil intent descends from an extraterrestrial globe that falls out of a cardboard sky but not before you see the string holding it up for the cameraMy only grouse about this book was that the print uality wasn’t good enough to do justice to the photographs Not that there are a lot of photographs but the ones which are there mostly stills from various Helen films would have benefited from being printed on better uality paperHighly recommended not just as a book about Helen but as one about the Hindi cinema of the 50s and 60s too

  2. says:

    This book is marvelous As the author notes a few times not without some sorrow it is not a biography of Helen Richardson the person Rather it is an analysis of Helen the phenomenon the persona Pinto situates Helen's performances within their context of contemporaneous Hindi cinema and analyzes the narrative and social purposes those performances served He does so with beautifully crafted prose that is a pleasure to read and also with a ton of affection Terrific stuff

  3. says:

    Jerry Pinto says that we don't need to know about real life Helen not that he didn't try She was a uniue dancer cum actress whose body enjoyed the beats clothed in outlandish costumes while still in harmony with music There is a reason that while actresses came and went Helen without doing any major acting roles became a legend It was her charming personality and dedication towards her dance that while attracting loud whistles was sensual without being vulgar She filled a vacuum of masculine imagination that no mainstream actress could manage So while she was absent in intellectual and social conversations at the back of the mind her presence was perpetual The indian audience fed with a constant dose of petulant and moral women saw in her the 'other' which we was beyond conventional diktatsJerry Pinto very meticulously deconstructs as to how she was always shown as an anglo Indian or a christian to justify her character a temptress who has broken the norms of society by choosing to dance and drink The fact that she was a white woman satiated the Indian post colonial anger by making her the symbol of evil or crime in most of the films and thus making her die in the climax The fact that Pinto managed to write a whole book on just the actress Helen without being repetitive and deconstruct every aspect of her roles is indeed a mark of great scholarship; Scholarship that Indian film writing is in dire need of It is a must read book for not only Helen's fans but anybody who would like to understand the subtle phenomenon of transformation of an actor into a legend

  4. says:

    Helen One of the most famous obiuitous names in Bollywood A survivor An icon A complete one of a kind Jerry Pinto is a wonderful writer Fluid articulate but extremely warm and humane Pinto's book is not a biography but rather an exploration of the pheonomenon rather than the person Helen The H bomb Helen did not cooperate in writing the book apparently she wanted a ridiculous sum by way of payment and so Pinot is left to reflect on her presence and the various archetypal roles she played in her amazing career as actress and dancer And as such while there the writing and analysis is top class the book cannot help but becoming a bit tedious Pinto is left to describe scene after scene to make his many points All relevant but from a reader's point of view slightly longSo readibiilty suffersBut as a reference book and a resource on the role of the 'vamp' in Hindi cinema it is outstanding

  5. says:

    oh so wonderful

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Helen The Life and Times of an H Bomb Main saare zamaane ke gham ki dawaa hoon I am the cure of all the sorrows of the world Lyrics from Helen's song in the film Adhikaar 1971 It is now over two decades since the Hindi film heroine drove the vamp into extinction and even longer since the silver screen was ignited by the true Bollywood version of a cabaret Yet Helennicknamed H Bomb' at the height of her careercontinues to rule the popular imagination Improbably for a dancer and a vamp she has become an icon Jerry Pinto's gloriously readable book is a study of the phenomenon that was Helen Why did a refugee of French Burmese parentage succeed as wildly as she did in Bollywood How could otherwise conservative families sit through and even enjoy her cabarets' What made Helen the desire that you need not be embarrassed about feeling' How did she manage the unimaginable vamp three generations of men on screen Eually the book is a wonderfully witty and provocative examination of middle class Indian morality; the politics of religion gender and sexuality in popular culture; and the importance of the song the item number and the wayward woman in Hindi cinema