18 comments on “Happy Birthday, Cuckoo!

  1. Thanks Richard for the nice Cuckoo video flood! I enjoyed them all, especially the one from Patanga. Now, she’s one of my favorites, too. So, I also want to wish a happy birthday to Cuckoo! Without here, there probably never would have been a Helen. She was good friends with Helen’s mother and that’s how Helen got into the business. She mentored Helen in those early years and should be given credit for Helen’s successful career. I love the dance they did together in Yahudi. Its one of my all time favorites. I just posted on my YT channel a dance they did from Heera Moti @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCCxoVbOcEU

  2. You’re welcome, Mister Naidu, and thank you for the video from Heera Moti – I didn’t know about that one, and it is nice too.

    I think I’ve already posted the Helen-Cuckoo video from Yahudi before. (IMO, another sort-of-mixed movie that has exceptional dances… The Kamala Lakshman dance in that one is sensational.) I get a bit lazy about searching my own blog, but actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if I posted that one more than once.

    As I was saying, though, I thought I’d put up a few that I hadn’t posted before, that people might not know about.

    I think a lot of people know about at least a couple of the songs that have Helen with Cuckoo… Cuckoo may have helped to introduce the world to Helen, but these days, if anything, it’s through Helen that people discover Cuckoo.

    By the way, I saw one or two more Cuckoo dances from Shabistan in which I would bet Helen is part of that chorus coming out of the walls. But I still have no idea where Helen would be in Awara

  3. Every time I see a high forehead and large bright eyes, I say Cuckoo!

    I listened to the qawwali frm Zeenat first because I love it.

  4. Happy Birthday Cuckoo! She was certainly truly great.

    Cuckoo does not appear in Aahen Na Bharin, unfortunately it appears you didn’t check. In my post of Zeenat songs, I have mentioned the Kalyani-Zohrabai-Menaka (recently realised the third singer) Noor Jehan, and these four all appeared as sort of singing stars (sang for themselves in some, did playback for some, and Amirbai did a single playback)

    That is Dulhan Ban Jao, Gale Lag Jao. There we get a historical sight of Zohrabai caressing Noor Jehan and also get to see Noor Jehan, Zohrabai and Menaka together!

  5. Ava, I love that qawwali too; that’s why I jumped at the chance to include it here. But Vidur says it doesn’t belong…

    Vidur, I am looking at “Dulhan Ban Jao” now, and Cuckoo’s face appears very clearly in that song. So, I guess will put “Dulhan Ban Jao” up instead since there can be no doubt that that is Cuckoo in that song.

    However, others have said that Cuckoo is in “Aahen Na Bharin.” See, for instance, the comment by Mmwan under this posting of the song on YouTube, who says, “I see and´╗┐ recognize Shashi Kala, Shyama and Cukoo but have forgotten others.” There are quite a few soon-to-be-famous actresses in this song and not every face is that easy to make out. And I said to myself that one or maybe another could be Cuckoo (I’m not going into which one now. :) ) So, you see, I did check. And I assume you would know better than anyone :) , but why would Mmwan, who certainly seems to be a good enough fan of these old movies, mention clearly recognizing her? And why would she be missing when “everyone else” is in this song? :)

  6. Cuckoo doesn’t appear at all! Some others than what Mmwan mentioned are Kalyani, Zohrabai (both themselves singers also here), Zebunnisa, soon-to-become-famous Pakistani (future) actress Yasmin, etc….

    Also a great Pakistani character actress Zeenat Begum (NOT the singer) got her debut in this film’s Sakhi Aaya Sawan Aaya, getting playback from Amirbai Karnataki. Her first main role was in another Noor Jehan film, Humjoli (1946) with Jairaj as Noor Jehan’s hero. You can check out my latest 2 YouTube uploads for extremely rare songs from this film. Zeenat later appeared in some more Noor Jehan films as character actress: Chan We, 1951; Dupatta; 1952, etc.

  7. Madhu/Dusted Off in her current review of 1951’s Naujawan linked to this Cuckoo song, which I thought pretty good;

  8. Thanks, Tom, that’s a nice one too. And I wasn’t aware of it or the film before, either. (Apparently, Dustedoff posted her review just half a day or so after I did this post. :) )

  9. Helen wasn’t in Shabistan at all. Helen was a chorus dancer for only 9 or 10 months after which she did her first solo performance in 1953. Helen was a dance judge in Boogie Woogie recently where she she corrects someone by saying she began her career in 1953. I think I saw the video on youtube or somewhere

  10. Thanks for the information, Rimi. But it is perplexing, because there are many sources that say that Helen had started out as a chorus dancer in Shabistan and Awara, and there are many Helen fans who have been trying to see if they could spot her in those films. :) If you Google the phrase “Helen Shabistan,” you’ll find dozens or maybe even hundreds of sources that say Helen was in the chorus in Shabistan, including Wikipdedia. And, in fact, I’m somewhat certain that Helen said it in past interviews herself.

  11. I think there are a lot of false info about Helen and other actresses. Even her date of birth is listed wrong. Helen was born in November 21, 1940 according to Filmfare magazines but Wikipedia says she was born in October 21, 1939. She started dancing when she was barely 13 in 1953. In Queen of the Nautch girls interview, Helen says she was 16 yrs old in Howrah Bridge which was shot in early 1957. She was neither in Shabistan or Awara because they were both shot in 1950-51.

    As far as I have seen, the only chorus dancing video of Helen is this one from Sholay(1953).

  12. Yes, it is true that there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the Indian film actress-dancers, when they started out, etc. I found that out a few years ago while trying to some detailed research on Padmini. And sometimes when the actresses get older, they get it a bit wrong themselves. I saw, from reading a few different interviews, that Padmini contradicted herself regarding what year she started, what age she was, etc. Though those interviews were in print, so maybe the writer/transcriber got it wrong. Oh, well, I guess it’s not that important in the scheme of things, but fans do want to know! :)

  13. Sorry to be off-topic, but in his book about Helen, Jerry Pinto says that she was born on July 14th 1938. And I think mid-38 is much more plausible that end-39 or end-40, simply because she has always said that she remembers Rangoon bombings (early 1942) and she can recall details of the 8 months nightmare trek in the jungle to join India. Such things are very unlikely if she were only 2 years old (or in my opinion impossible if she were only 1). Besides, she has no reason to make-up a story about an obscure movie like Shabistan, and she did actually make a breakthrough in Alif Laila (shot in 52-53). Helen wouldn’t have been the 1st actress to mix-up some very old things and to let wrong information propagate in the press.

  14. What’s most tragic about, Cukoo, Cuckoo May, an Anglo Indian, she died a slow death, forgotten and unattended. And penniless. Film industry is most ruthless. And ungrate. Now, in 2012, how can we help someone dead decades back? Tragic.

  15. The best of Cukoo was in Andaz. Her steps on Khayalon me kisi ke and her expressions on char din ki in the same song.

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