Saturday, August 3, 2002

The cutting edge of filmi haircuts
Pinky Adil

Star haircuts are increasingly influencing style perceptions of the masses.
Star haircuts are increasingly influencing style perceptions of the masses.

SHAH RUKH KHAN’S designer achkans and Aishwarya Rai’s lehnga-cholis are not the only things to define fashion trends in India today. Star haircuts are also increasingly influencing style perceptions and the look of the masses. And the ones to be most affected are, significantly, the males.

The entry of salons in the film industry has brought about this change. If Sanjay Dutt has lopped off his tresses or Rahul Bose decides to go for some streaking, the credit does not go to the freelancing Meenas and Marias of yore. Professional ‘specialists’ from reputed hair styling establishments in Mumbai are turning out to be the real trendsetters.

The trade calls them "parlour people", just to distinguish them from traditionalists who have been the personal hairdressers of leading stars for decades. But everybody acknowledges that in these fast-changing times, conventional starry looks have no place.


"Trends are quite unpredictable," concedes Avan Contractor, a parlour person from Juice Hair. "We’ve seen dotcoms, night clubs and radio channels become a rage. I am not surprised that a lot more salons have jumped into the fray. After all, hairdressing is a growing industry and there is definitely a lot of scope."

Contractor is credited with ushering in this trend with Farzan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai. Ever Since, every college boy worth his follicles wanted Aamir Khan’s cool cut. Every oh-so-slightly-balding denizen wanted Akshaye Khanna’s subtle style. And Saif’s floppy hairdo set many a heart flutter.

Clearly, it is the element of creativity that she can "showcase on a large canvas for a larger audience" that inspires her to work her magic. "It’s a completely different ball game," she explains. "There’s just no comparison between working for movies and salon work. For a movie, I need to study the characterisation, understand every role, work in conjunction with the costume designer and then conjure a look."

Lately, Contractor has styled Akshaye Khanna’s hair in the just-released Humraaz and his forthcoming Deewangi and will soon begin work on Honey Irani’s Armaan. If the story and people are interesting, doing movies can be a great experience," she points out.

"There’s more scope to be innovative in movies," says Hakim’s Alim, who has styled the looks in the forthcoming Plan, Paanch and Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai. "In close-ups, the one thing constantly visible is the hair. Hair can be used to give life to a character and add to the portrayal."

Elaborating, he points out that with styling coming to movies, it has been possible to take the trendy and funky to a mass level of acceptance. "In Dil Chahta Hai, Aamir Khan, an ordinary office-goer was made to look trendy. It changes people’s approach to life."

On his part though, he has always had a weakness to experiment with the out-of-the-ordinary, so as to break stereotypes. For instance in Plan, he has given Sanjay Dutt silver streaks on the head and an unusually beard. His looks for KK in Paanch and Manoj Bajpai in Road are altogether funky. There are also a couple of projects with Saif Ali Khan and childhood friend, Vivek Oberoi.

Another ‘parlour person’ Anuradha Yousuf of Scissor over Comb points out that much of innovativeness and experimentation on the sets comes with the level of professionalism of unit hands and the willingness of the director to break out of the rut.

Speaking of the experience of working with Rahul Bose’s Everybody Says I’m Fine, she says: "Ninety per cent of the movie was shot in a salon. Rahul needed everything to look authentic, right from the look of the salon to client handling, to the haircutting and the atmospheric sounds. So it was more of consultancy than a mere hair-styling stint."

Similarly, Kanta Motwani of Kaya argues that salon styling can have a future in the film industry only if "filmi people are more professional." In her opinion, the "film industry structure is very shaky, plagued by non-professionals and subject to haphazard schedules."

Motwani has styled Arjun Ramphal’s hair for Pyar Ishq Aur Mohabbat and is now working on Pritish Nandy’s Jhankar Beats, the Aishwarya Rai and Arjun Ramphal-starrer Dil Ka Rishtaa and Sunny Deol’s forthcoming film Gandhi. MF