Indians perceive long hair as beautiful. So none of the women in India really have short hair; only hairdressers do, says Adhuna Bhabani-Akhtar
Only Adhuna Bhabani-Akhtar can dare to sport such an androgynous almost-mohawk in Bollywood. “It is inspired by the 80s quiff,” she explains. “A lot of what is going on right now in the world of fashion is from the 1940s. Punk rock has a great influence as well,” says the hairstylist and owner of the b:blunt range of salons that are all the rage in Bollywood.
“I like to change my style as often as possible…there’s no real time frame. I love cutting my hair,” she emphasises. This particular style’s been done by celebrity stylist Avan Contractor (hair stylist for Aamir Khan in Dil Chahta Hai, Rang De Basanti, and Taare Zameen Par), also from b:blunt.
Her style stands out pretty stark in a country that treasures long hair. “That’s difference between the Indian perspective and the western on hair length — in the west anything that’s only above the jawline is short!” she laughs. “It’s only then that you really see a change in shape.” She insists that none of the women in India have short hair. “Only hairdressers have short hair!” she points out to her team at the newly-opened salon on the modish Indiranagar 12 main, Bangalore. They’ve been in Bangalore for over three years now in partnership with sisters Gauri and Shauna Spratt of Spratt salon.
“Indians are sentimental about their hair. Long hair has been part of the culture and people have an obsession with it. But times are changing,” she observes. When she first came to India, which was 20 years ago, men were more open to a change in their hairstyle than women, she says. “It’s a cultural thing…perceiving long hair as beautiful.” Adhuna, born to a Bengali father and British mother, grew up in the U.K., and won the under-21 National Junior Championship in hairdressing in the U.K. when she was 16.
The salon, as well as Adhuna, trace back their link to Bollywood from the time of the iconic Hindi movie Dil Chahta Hai — the funky hairdos sported by the actors in the film were designed by the salon. And that’s also when Adhuna met and later married actor-director-musician Farhan Akhtar.
While trends in hairstyling, like in fashion, are set, observed and followed, Adhuna personally feels that it’s a mistake to follow trends blindly. “It’s not about a trend but about what suits you. At the salon we take into account body proportion, face shape, lifestyle and other such factors into account before we decide on a style. The texture and shape have to match.” The hairdressing industry in India has exploded in the last 10 years, and it’s all healthy competition, she says. “There’s a salon at every street corner!”
She was a regular visitor to Bangalore even before her salon days (she first set up Juice in 1998). “I used to come here to do shoots. I feel Bangalore has a vibe of its own…a certain buzz around it. There are a lot of young people.”
Why do people go in for really dramatic makeovers? Her fellow stylist at the salon Brent Barber once told me that break-ups often bring in clients for a style change! She laughs loud before admitting that a lot of people do like to change their hair when something dramatic happens in their life.
The salon also worked on Farhan's look for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. “It was a process of creating this character. An actor’s wardrobe, makeup and hair help him achieve a character. Farhan started growing his hair months before the shoot. It was only a few weeks before the shoot that we used hair extensions.”
Next on the Bollywood cards is doing Farhan’s hair for Shaadi Ke Side Effects and prepping for director (and Farhan’s sister) Zoya Akhtar’s next project.