‘[A] delightful, intelligent and effortlessly well-researched book… [Pinto] captures in nuanced but unpretentious prose the sheer transcendence of Helen’s personality.’—The Telegraph
It is now well over three 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, Helen—nicknamed ‘H-Bomb’ at the height of her career—continues to rule the popular imagination. Improbably, for an ‘item girl’—who rarely appeared for more than five minutes in a movie—she has become an icon.
Jerry Pinto’s sparkling 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 mainstream Indian cinema? 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?
Equally, the book is a gloriously 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.