September 17th, 2011

The Tragic ending of Cuckoo Moore – Helen remembers Cuckoo

Cuckoo in Andaz (1949)

Cuckoo in Andaz (1949)

Cuckoo Moore, the legendary cabaret queen of the Bollywood was one of those film stars who lived ostentatiously, spent extravagantly and died broke and penniless. Her three cars (one for her use, one for taking her dogs for a drive, and the other often used to summon protégée Helen to play with her sister), her flats and whatever jewellery she had, were all taken away because the dancer had evaded income tax. She would charge Rs 6,000 for a dance number, an enviable fee in the ’50s. The film director she had devoted her life to couldn’t help her when she needed him. Cuckoo died of cancer at the age of 52; during her last days she could barely afford to buy painkillers. “She never thought of security, of tomorrow,” Helen recalls. “But what a tremendous lady she was! There wasn’t even a tear in her eye, even when the roles stopped, when the money disappeared. Instead she’d joke about her plight. Some actors did help but it was too late, much too late.”

Memories