The gallery on http://www.hassanwigmaker.in boasts of creating everything, from blonde bobs and auburn curls to African braids and bushy mustaches. It gives a glimpse of what Mohammed Hassan Mulla, 37, has been working on in a room in Sion for about two decades. Working out of a chawl in the Sindhi compound near Sion Hospital, Mulla, better known as Hassan wig-maker, has been sewing hair into lace bases, creating wigs for cancer patients and artistes from the film and TV industry. Mulla feels making wigs for cancer patients is his small contribution towards their treatment as many feel depressed after hair loss caused by the disease. Seeing them smile, he says, makes him emotional.
Mulla was all of 10 years old when he started helping his uncle, Ibadat Mulla, with his wig-making business in Sion. “It’s my uncle who taught me how to make a wig and slowly I took interest in his business. About 20 years back, my uncle handed over the business to me because his children had got married and he said he wanted to return to his hometown Howrah,” he said. It is in the same room, located above a hotel, that Mulla inherited the craft from his uncle.
However, at the time he took over the business from his uncle, wigs were made of nylon. Mulla said he told his uncle that they should start using natural hair to make wigs. “My uncle gave me all the space I wanted to make this business grow. I researched and came up with the idea of using original hair to make wigs. I told my uncle and he agreed to do it,” Mulla said.
Mulla buys hair from traders who bring consignments from the Tirupati Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh, where people donate their hair. Mulla says he buys hair donated by people free of cost at Rs 80,000 per kg. There are two types of hair, remy (hair that is donated and is smoother) and non-remy (the leftover, tangled hair). “People come with a lot of hope and I try to make them happy,” Mulla said.
When a client comes to his shop, he asks them for pictures before hair loss. He then assures them a wig which will make them look like they used to. “When I assure them I will make a wig exactly the way they want, they ask me, ‘Is it possible?’ and I say ‘Yes,” Mulla said. “People are very emotional when it comes to hair. Everyone knows how important hair is for oneself and specially for those who have lost their hair because of cancer. I feel by making a wig for cancer patients I contribute towards making them happy,” he said. “One must care for a wig like he or she does for their natural hair. A single wig can be used for three to four years. One has to shampoo and use conditioner to wash it,” Mulla said.
Apart from acquiring the skill from his uncle, Mulla said he also got training in hair-cutting, coloring and hair-straightening from a salon. A wig costs Rs 7,000-9,000. “There have been instances when clients call me and, after inquiring about the price, say they cannot afford it. I tell them I can negotiate and offer discounts. I usually prefer giving discounts to cancer patients and have made free wigs for many,” Mulla said.
Recalling a recent incident, Mulla said there was a client from Kashmir, who was under treatment at the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital. “The patient’s family approached me for a wig. I told them it would cost around Rs 7,000. They said they cannot pay more than Rs 3,000. I told them we will manage and made a wig for them,” he said.
Ten years back, Mulla would receive orders from three-four cancer patients in a year but now he gets around three orders per month. His business works through his website, word of mouth and references from doctors treating cancer patients and hotels. Mulla said the process of making a wig is no cakewalk. After the hair is delivered to his shop, it is first washed. “The condition of the hair is so bad you cannot touch it. We wash it with hot water and surf, then shampoo it and use conditioner. After it is dried in the sun, we segregate the hair based on colour and length. Then the hair is used to make wigs,” Mulla said.
Mulla explained that they have a basic model of a human head. Wigs are made to measurements of the client. He said that when a wig is made for the film or TV industry, the director gives him the look he wants. On a lace net, hair is stitched using a needle. “Stitching hair one by one in the net is not easy. It takes concentration and strains the eyes,” Mulla said. It takes four-five days to make a wig. Around eight people work alongside Mulla in his shop.