What's Hell got that Helen hasn't?
"Heav'n has no rage, like love to hatred turn'd, Nor Helen a fury, like a woman scorn'd"!
With apologies to William Congreve, it is a quote that sums up the life and times of 'the hepcat with nine lives', Helen -- as the
go-go girl with the come-hither look.
It is a hazaar pities that, before and after the September-end Nine Gold Nite -- paying tribute to this living legend sex-symbolic of a whole era in our cinema -- no mention was made of the fact that Helen is the first Indian actress to have raced past the 500 films' milestone.
Helen was even featured, for this feat, as the blow-up Cover Girl in Film World.
As the cover girl who chose to cover herself so much and no more!
In so revealing her charms in easy-on-the-eye instalments, Helen it was who set the rock ' n' roll trend in our cinema.
This little-known theme song is the one on which I seek to turn the spotlight here.
Mention Helen and she comes dancing on your lips as Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo.
This one is as near rock 'n' roll as makes no difference, yet it is not quite the trendsetting thing in this genre.
I will, by and by, come to the song with which Helen belligerently blazed the rock 'n' roll trail in our films, but let us stay awhile with Onkar Prasad Nayyar's Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo that had Helen setting Howrah Bridge on fire.
Is there a song more laden with Helen history than this?
Helen made the big breakthrough, via this Qamar Jalalabadi-written song, in the face of being set up, on Howrah Bridge, in competition with the never-never Madhubala.
How many of you know that to Helen belongs the credit of having enacted, lissomely live on the screen, the last solo that the late
Geeta Dutt rendered for O P Nayyar?
Yes, Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo is that swansong solo of Geeta's for 'Opee'.
Nayyar, by that stage, had crossed Howrah Bridge -- in the sense that the year of advent of that that Shakti Samanta movie (1958) saw 'Opee' irretrievably involved with Asha Bhosle.
Nayyar's concentration in Howrah Bridge, therefore, was not on Helen; nor on Geeta; nor on Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo.
Nayyar's sights were set on Madhubala -- on how he would venture to create, for his very own Asha, a song by which they would remember this "Heroine's Heroine", yet again, as the Venus of the Indian Screen.
It was to this end that 'Opee' had rehearsed Asha, ultra-thoroughly, for that super-enchantress solo to go on Madhubala in Howrah Bridge -- Aayeeiye meherbaan baithiye jaan-e-jaan.
Thus O P Nayyar, at a point in Asha's career when she was still groping for a vocal stance, got the Bhosle girl, tonally,
to come as close to Geeta Dutt as any composer could, possibly, have made her do then.
Plus the song was on Madhubala. What more could Asha and her Nayyar want?
Yet it was no go!
There, right under Howrah Bridge, was the pneumatic Helen to take up, from the siren-voiced Geeta, the 'Opee'; refrain of Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo!
That did it -- not even Madhubala could steal Helen’s ceaseless-sizzler thunder, memorably as that willowy beauty gave
screen expression Aayeeiye meherbaan -- in the vocally matching voice of Asha.
Geeta Dutt, mind you, was not unaware of the fact that Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo could be her last solo rendition for Nayyar, seeing how this rebel composer had begun to summon her but reluctantly -- as 'Opee', by then, had ears only for Asha.
Yet Geeta, for her vocal part, had only to be told that Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo was to go on Helen and she gave it everything she had.
So did Asha impart to Aayeeiye meherbaan all she could, spurred by the knowledge that her vocals suited Madhubala to a T.
But it was of no competing avail, as the Helen-Geeta combo stole the scene -- to the Asha-besotted consternation of O P
Mera naam Chin-Chin-Choo could, in a manner of musical speaking, be interpreted as crystallising the rock 'n' roll wave that Helen had set in meretricious motion (just a year earlier) under the Baarish baton of C Ramchandra , with Mr Jaan ya Baba Khan ya Lala Roshandaan.
Helen, on the silver screen, had pioneered this tumultuous turn in our film music via the swinging vocals of Asha Bhosle at a time
when C Ramchandra was committed to Lata Mangeshkar as even Madhubala was not committed to Kishore Kumar!
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Helen: The dancing queen!