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'Barbers are the real artists'

By ANITA AIKARA
March 14, 2022 13:24 IST
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Darshan Yewalekar, who has been raising Bollywood hair styling standards, wants Indian men to pay more attention to their hair.

IMAGE: Darshan Yewalekar with Ranveer Singh, his favourite muse.
All photographs: Kind courtesy Darshan Yewalekar/Instagram

Darshan Yewalekar grew up wanting to become an aeronautical engineer.

Life had different things planned for him.

He got his first taste of the hairstylist life at the age of 16.

Today, he is a well-known name in Bollywood and has styled hair for Ranveer Singh, Salman Khan and Saif Ali Khan among others.

Darshan tells Anita Aikara/Rediff.com about the most fun and challenging parts of his job, what makes celebrity hairstyles so fabulous, along with tips for aspiring hairstylists.

Starting off at 16

I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer.

Being a small-town boy from Bhusawal I wanted to study in the city.

My father knew he couldn't afford that and when I took admission locally in microbiology, 15 days into the course my parents saw I wasn't happy.

I'd give full credit to my parents to see that I didn't have much potential in academics, but had great potential in other departments.

They figured that I really wanted to study in the city. That's when my dad asked me, 'Will you want to do hairstyling in Pune?'

The reason I decided to go ahead with the idea was because I wanted to get out of the small town.

My mother was a beautician for the longest time, so this profession was not too far from home for me.

A few months into my hairstyling course I came to Mumbai to see a shoot as my friend was working there.

His boss took interest in me, asked me a few technical questions and then offered me a job. I was just 16.

From the age of 15, I have not known of anything other than cutting hair.

For me it's a form of art and not a mere job. It is a form of expression.

Once you learn the basics, you just keep growing every day.

Every year I travel abroad to keep myself updated on hairstyling techniques and be a student again.

First memory of styling a celeb

It was Salman Bhai (Khan) for Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. My boss that time had designed his hairstyle, and I went to assist him.

We were shooting in Film City, and I was very excited.

In my early days, my boss would design the celebrity's hair.

Later I started designing it, and I remember doing it for Yuvraj.

We were shooting in Austria and I decided to cut and colour Salman Bhai's hair in dual tones.

Back then it was fairly new for men to get into global colouring and highlights, but it turned out really well.

IMAGE: Darshan and Ranveer on the sets of '83.

When it comes to styling celebs...

For me it is not just about styling a celeb. It is more about styling the celebrity for a film.

Over the period of 19 years, I have developed a process; a certain kind of format.

I make sure that whenever a celeb comes to get hair designed for a film, the approach is completely different.

It is mainly defined by the character he is playing, his character graph, the requirements of the film, etc.

If it is just a generalised look, I try to bring out the best in them with what they have.

A secret no one knows about Darshan

I have only learnt female hairstyling. I have never learnt to style hair for men.

It is like Sachin (Tendulkar) is known for his batting, but he bowls as well.

You are known for what you do the best, but you shine for the best you have done so far.

Now, in the last 4-5 years, I have branched out designing full-fledged.

I have designed hair for films like Laal Kaptaan, Maska, etc.

His dream project

Right now I'm on board with Karan Johar's Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.

I am designing hair for the whole cast.

Most enjoyable work till date

I enjoy the most when I style without boundaries, especially during magazine shoots.

Whenever I do editorial shoots, I get an adrenaline rush. It give me wings.

It is fun to sync in with the mood board and come up with a style that's different and abstract.

IMAGE: Aayush Sharma is a regular at Darshan's salon.

Best part about his job

When I wake up in the morning, I'm excited to quickly get to work, because I'm in love with my job.

That's the best thing I could ask for. It's not a job for me.

It's like an artist who paints because he loves to do it.

My love and passion for hairstyling keeps me going.

The most challenging part

To reinvent myself every day.

An artist is known by his craft, but there are so many elements at play because at the end of the day we are all human.

The growth part is not only about work, but overall growth and how one holds their position.

That is the most challenging part when you grow as an artist.

You can be the best professional, but to become an entrepreneur and someone who people look up to comes with its own challenges.

Who styles Darshan's hair!

You won't believe this, but I shoot at several locations and very often I end up in a small barber's shop and ask them to cut my hair.

They do justice to it. Barbers have been around for long. I'd say it is an old art form.

A barber's life is not such a bad deal.

When barbers cut your hair, the finesse they have in their hands doing 20-30 hair cuts a day shows.

Barbers are really under-rated, but they are the real artists.

It is just that they are not motivated enough or directed in the correct way.

IMAGE: Darshan with Director Rohit Shetty and Ranveer Singh.

His association with Ranveer Singh

It started in 2012, during Ram Leela when my godfather Sanjay Sir (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) introduced me to Ranveer and asked him to see my work.

Ranveer liked my approach for the film and he offered me a magazine shoot.

He is one year older to me and I feel a strong connect with him.

It was his passion for acting, clubbed with my passion for hairstyling, along with his nature of experimenting with himself, that worked.

He has done so many different roles and whatever he picks, he knows he wants to challenge himself and do something different every time.

That helped us connect, because I was ready with a new look always.

One decade has passed since we got to know each other.

When Ranveer and I sat down post the first lockdown, looking back at the years we have worked together, we realised how many iconic looks we have created together.

Prior to the lockdown, we were constantly working -- every morning I'd wake up with a job to complete.

So when I got that time to sit back and introspect, I felt humbled and really nice.

With every look, every film, the decisions we took seem to have paid off -- from going bald for Bajirao Mastani to growing his beard as Alauddin Khalji in Padmaavat, Ranveer has been a good support system.

I am so thankful that he has been such a good muse. For a mainstream hero to trust you with your craft means a lot.

It is a beautiful bond we share. I feel blessed to be a part of his film journey.

Smart tips celebs use to style their hair

First tip would be hire a professional hairstylist. None of these celebs do their hair by themselves.

If you see a celeb's hair for any film, you need to understand that there are a lot of techniques and processes that have gone into creating the look.

The trick to maintaining good hair is eating a healthy diet and regular workout.

If you miss out on that, nothing can help improve your basic hair health.

IMAGE: (Before and after) Known for his iconic beard, Darshan chopped it off earlier this year.

Advice for Indian men on hairstyling

Can Indian men please start using styling products?

I'd tell them to use a blow-dyer and hair brushes.

At times people come to me asking for a complicated look.

But what they don't understand is that particular look needs lot of work in the morning. They'll need to put some effort.

However, I do feel that times are changing.

Most of my clients tell me that they have started using hairstyling products.

They have started dedicating those extra 15-20 minutes in the morning to make their hair look prim and proper.

Styling tips for men

In winter, put an extra effort to moisture your scalp.

Please oil your hair, because there is nothing that maintains the PH balance of your scalp.

Advice for aspiring hairstylists

The most important part when you begin your career, is to be ready to give two years of your time to a correct guru.

Assist someone and spend at least two years on the floor (in a salon or barber shop).

Don't be in a hurry to finish a course and start styling celebs. There are no shortcuts.

I spent 4 years on the floor before styling celebs.

The practice you put in the beginning years will help you grow in the latter years.

Styling hair in a salon or barber shop and styling celebs is two different things.

The basics and techniques remain the same, but the client who comes to you on a monthly basic wants something that is achievable.

Unlike films, where a lot of technique and thought goes into a look.

There is no course which teaches people what it takes to style celebs.

However, I am building a course to help learn the tricks of being on a film set.

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ANITA AIKARA / Rediff.com