Hairstyling or food, Aalim Hakim loves to experiment

He’s already had lunch, but Aalim Hakim is game for a green salad when we meet. At The Oberoi to promote his upcoming show “Style Inc.” on TLC, hairstylist Aalim juggles calls from gushing lifestyle reporters to chirpy young features interns — seamlessly switching from English to conversational Hindi.

“Arey, you’re not having anything,” he tells me, between a call. Aalim tells me later that he loves street food— “Jisme thodi gandagi ho” (Food with some dirt). When in Delhi, that is whenever he has the time, he steps out of his glitzy and sanitised world to try some aloo tikki, chaat or kababs, even if it’s only in Khan Market. He also likes Khan Chacha and Punjabi by Nature. “Kababs and the usual gravy stuff. Yes, that’s my taste of Delhi.”

Aalim is often the only person allowed to play with hair of the stars. Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Vivek Oberoi— he’s cut them down to size. “Saif keeps working on his hair. Only he knows when it is right. He always has two dryers. He blows better than a professional.”

Saif’s most memorable hairstyle, for Aalim, is his Omkara look. Between footage of Saif at salons and studios, Style Inc. will also give viewers a peek into Saif’s wardrobe and amazing collection of wristwatches, he adds. Aalim’s Facebook friends, however, also get a peek into his kitchen. As if messing around people’s hair wasn’t enough, he now takes classes from a chef in international cuisine.

“I love Mexican, sizzlers, Italian and all kinds of chicken. I train for three hours every day. My chef is very thorough. I learn from the basics – buying vegetables, cleaning fish and cutting and carving vegetables,” says Aalim.

He is apprehensive about Indian cuisine, even though it is his favourite. “It’s difficult to cook and difficult to style. It is easy to style dry food, European dishes. Chicken vicken mein sauce dalke, garnish karke Facebook pe laga sakta hoon. Ladkiyan impress ho jaati hain (I can add a sauce to the chicken, garnish it and put it up on Facebook. Girls get impressed). Everyone asks me when am I inviting them for dinner.”

It is as difficult to get a reservation for Aalim’s dinners as his hair sessions. “It sometimes takes a month before we fix a date for hair styling. I meet the designers and directors. The hero’s haircut builds his character. I often give them time to grow their hair, so I can do stuff with it.”

On Style Inc., viewers will get to see a few of the tantrums stars throw. Aalim says that’s once in a blue moon. Usually they give him full freedom. “I practice on mannequins… It feels good when other hairdressers call me up to compliment me on a new style.”

Aalim has made a career not just by reinventing old styles but creating new looks. His philosophy on food too works on these lines. He’s now learning Japanese cuisine. His comfort food though is, predictably, his mother’s cooking.

“Dal gosht and rice, mutton korma and yakhni pulao. I can’t cook like that. That takes real skill. That food, I’ll have any day over this stuff,” he says pointing towards my panini and fries. Indeed.

Home is where it all began for Aalim. He started cutting hair on his balcony in Mumbai’s Versova. His friends Vivek Oberoi and Shreyas Talpade were his early guinea pigs on the barber’s chair. That’s how his fame spread, through word of mouth.

I make way for the next reporter, leaving my panini half eaten— as he did to his salad. All I could think of was dal gosht. For a moment there, I was sure Aalim shared my thoughts.

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