1. Helen Jairag Richardson was born on 21 November, 1938 in Yangon, Burma to an Anglo-Indian father and Burmese mother. She has a brother, Roger, and a step-sister, Jennifer.
2. After her father died, her mother remarried a British soldier and Helen took on his surname – Richardson. Her step-father died during World War II.
3. In 1943, her family trekked to Mumbai along with others to flee the Japanese occupation of Burma.
4. During their travels through forests and villages, they survived on the generosity of villagers who would let them rest and give them food to eat.
5. Even British soldiers helped with transport, food and medical assistance when they came across the fleeing group.
6. Despite this, her pregnant mother miscarried on the journey. Some of the group died of starvation and sickness.
7. While staying in Calcutta, Helen quit school because her mother’s salary as a nurse was not enough to survive on.
8. Cukoo Moray, a family friend and a dancer, helped Helen find jobs as a chorus dancer. Soon Helen was working regularly and Cukoo faded into the background.
9. Her first big break came to her at the age of 19 in the shape of a song: ‘Mera naam Chin Chin Chu’ in the film ‘Howrah Bridge’.
10. She became the first ‘item girl’ in Bollywood and was a sex symbol all through the 60s and 70s. She was referred to as the H-Bomb.
11. Helen was known to wear a burkha when she went out because she would get harassed due to her exotic looks.
12. She was married to director PN Arora (27 years older to her) from 1957 to 1973. On her 35th birthday, she left him after she found out that he had been spending her money.
13. Despite having earned quite well, due to her husband’s extravagance, Helen was bankrupt and had her apartment seized.
14. In 1962, Helen and Salim Khan met on the sets of ‘Kabli Khan’. He later helped her get roles in films that he co-scripted with Javed Akhtar.
15. In 1981, Helen got married to Salim Khan and became his second wife. This was received very badly by Salim’s sons – Salman, Arbaaz and Sohail. They later made peace with it.
16. Helen and Salim adopted a girl from the streets and named her Arpita, who is now half-sister to the Khan brothers.
17. In 1971, she disowned her mother, brother and step-sister because her mother had eloped with her chauffeur. Her mother died in 1986.
18. Helen officially retired in 1983, but has continued to make guest appearances, most notably in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ as Salman Khan’s mother.
19. She has won the Padam Shri and the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement awards.