Bollywood's 'mane' attraction


Bollywoods mane attraction

The emphasis on hairstyling for men in Hindi films is greater than ever. But does it always enhance their character - or performance?


Khalid Mohamed

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Published: Fri 21 Sep 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 21 Sep 2018, 2:00 AM

Hairstyling of Bollywood stars - especially of the male of the species - is increasingly becoming as vital as the length and depth of the roles essayed by them. Some of the heroes are endowed with natural locks, which can be tweaked into myriad shapes, while others have to struggle for hours to attain a wonderful hair day before the merciless eye of the camera.
On occasion, alas, the hair bangs, mounds and curls become a distraction. Case in point: newcomer Ishaan Khatter in Majid Majidi's underwhelming Beyond The Clouds. In the role of a downbeat shanty dweller, the young actor's hair couture was all over the place; by the end, you wanted to scream out loud: "Focus on your acting, Ishaan. It doesn't matter whether your locks are gelled, distraught, Michael Jackson-ish or whatever!"
Gratifyingly, Ishaan was far more aptly groomed in his Bollywood debut Dhadak. You could actually figure out what was going on in his mind rather than on his scalp. Another potentially gifted actor, Harshvardhan Kapoor, has opted to stay strictly hirsute in both Mirzya (2016) and this year's Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. And if a role calls for offbeat candour and wilfulness, check out Vicky Kaushal's mohawk hairstyling in Manmarziyaan. It turned out to be obtrusive: out of vogue, and faddishly derivative of a bygone New York scene.
Of course, when it's integral to the plot, the emphasis on hair-dos does seem necessary, as it did in the case of Sanju, with Ranbir Kapoor essaying the various ages and looks of Sanjay Dutt. That the other actors in the film kept their 'look' unvaried is another question altogether. Paresh Rawal, enacting the real-life Sunil Dutt, couldn't quite approximate the senior actor's silken toss of hair, and opted for an apology of a fringe just about falling on his forehead.
By the way, the game-changer - and an extraordinary one at the time - was Dil Chahta Hai (2001), directed by Farhan Akhtar. His then wife, Adhuna, had created individualistic looks for its three lead players - Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna. In fact, the fuzz above Aamir's chin has been vastly imitated over the years.
Post-Dil Chahta Hai, hairstyling became the 'in' thing. And in different ways, Salman Khan's ample sidelocks on the forehead in Tere Naam (2003), Aamir Khan's designer bald crew cut with a parting in Ghajini (2008) and Ranveer Singh's dishevelled appearance in Gunday (2014) became style statements. Indeed, in the case of Ranveer, the unkempt hair was more grungily effective in the period drama Padmaavat. In the neatnik look, the actor seemed to be out of sorts and even sulkily repressed in Lootera (2013).
Quite evidently, actors are wont to do the salon-right thing. John Abraham submits himself to a head massage in Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, but just for a nano-second. Before he can look messy, the scene cuts. Then, there's Akshay Kumar, who may be beating up a stock of baddies in the Rowdy Rathore-ilk films or playing a social reformist - but his hair will always be in place. And aah, since Salman Khan is Bollywood's supremo hero, his calling card is his brushed, brusque and starch-stiff look.
Over to the indefatigable Amitabh Bachchan. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he's perhaps the only actor in the world who has been accepted in a brownish, obviously dyed hair and a snow-white goatee. That Bachchan Sr has to go through hours of getting into the skin of his character must be tiresome. Somewhere along the line, he just didn't look the part of a 100-plus-year-old in 102 Not Out. The Santa Clausy white look just wasn't convincing enough. On the upside, the detailed look created for him for the upcoming Thugs of Hindostan looks sufficiently imposing.
Undoubtedly, there are a few actors whose hair is one of their strongest, Samson-like features. Count among them Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor, who don't have to labour over their coiffure - not for hours and hours at least in the vanity vans, particularly for their romance-laden movies set in today's times. Snag: how many of these romances are being made today?
As the movies fly off into more way-out fantasies, so do the hairstyles. Mercifully, or going by the advance stills of the under-production Zero, in which Shah Rukh Khan takes on the role of a dwarf, his mussy, quasi-Beatles hairstyle stays intact.
Okay, so why have I razored into the hair zone today? Simply because the way things are going, the look - particularly the hair couture - has become as de rigueur as a hero's acting capabilities.
Did Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand (he of the famous puff) ever fuss and fret in their studio makeup rooms with a battery of stylists? I don't think so, except under exceptional circumstances when the trio had to impersonate characters in disguise or if they were shown to be ageing on screen. I bring up the classic triumvirate, only because their lasting charisma has given way to a certain gel-pomaded system. Looking cool has taken precedence over acting chops.

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