Katrina Kaif was in the news recently when she dyed her hair an unbecoming shade of red for her role in the movie Fitoor. Director Abhishek Kapoor later revealed the colour was a metaphor and a tribute to the magnificent chinar tree in Kashmir where the film was set. Amid much criticism from Indian hairstylists, Kaif used a London-based colorist at an allegedly astronomical cost to achieve the right hue but alas, the film still flopped.
I find myself somewhat in sympathy with Kaif who was willing to go to any length for her tresses because when it comes to hair colour, nothing is as simple as black and white. There are several hundred confusing shades of ashen and brunette to choose from. While it all sounds fabulously chic, flying to London for a touch up, Kaif clearly knew it’s takes a whole lot of luck and a very talented hair professional to not look terrible as a redhead. So she consoled herself by at least not compromising on the stylist.
For who among women has not suffered the evil genius of a persuasive hair dresser who’s convinced you to trade in your colour of dry straw for spun gold? I have written a note to myself that I read before every visit to the salon. A reminder, that it’s the hairdresser’s job to suggest a drastic cut or a makeover and that if nobody ever experiments with their hair, she’ll be out of business. If she doesn’t believe that a tiny mop of unruly whites is actually the elegance of restraint and suggests anything with the word tint, mull it over and don’t react immediately. It’s easier said than done, to resist acting in haste and after my last visit I joined the long and ever growing list of blonde Indians.
Delhi women are notoriously conservative when it comes to their hair, preferring to wear it long, and straight. Very, very few keep it short after a certain age because it’s also true it requires a cooler attitude to carry off an androgynous pixie cut. Where they’re willing to get a little edgy however, is with the colour. Chocolate and honey strands, caramel bases and swimming pool blue streaks are all the rage these days and it seems wherever I look I see golden heads, even hints of platinum. When hair colour first came to India a decade ago, it was primarily used to cover signs of ageing, that’s it. It’s now the money spinner for every salon and the top colorists in the city take home six figure salaries.
Now that I’ve joined the blonde brigade I’m more aware of the stereotypes which go way beyond the dumb blonde jokes. Peroxide light hair in Delhi quite unfairly signifies a desperate, attention grabbing attempt at youth. It’s considered bold, brassy and tacky. It doesn’t help that you never see a female academic on TV with anything other than a dull gray head while every single human being gyrating on music channels is a different tone of blonde. At it’s root, a desire for light hair is an urge to stand out. That can hardly be so bad. What’s true is that hair has no fixed meaning and as the song from the musical Hair goes it can be “long, straight, curly” — or “knotted, twisted and ratty”.