HT Brunch Interview: Meet Ranveer Singh’s barber!
Darshan Yewalekar is the man behind the superstar’s looks in Ram-Leela, Padmaavat and Simmba; has also worked with Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Ranbir KapoorUpdated: Dec 06, 2019 12:02 IST
Actor Ranveer Singh’s hairstyles have been as edgy as his film roles. Remember that semi-bald look with a short ponytail in Bajirao Mastani? Or, how about his long wavy hair and moustache in Gundey or take the dreadlocks he sported as Khilji in Padmaavat. More recently, the actor sported a sleek side parting in and as Simmba and will be seen flaunting trademark Kapil Dev curls in the cricketer’s biopic, 83. Even off screen the actor is known to let his hair down, often literally! And a chunk of the credit for his hair-raising acts goes to his mane man Darshan Yewalekar.
“Why does a ‘barber’ require a fancy term? You call a doctor a doctor but you call a barber a hair-stylist!”
“I was introduced to Ranveer by (Sanjay Leela) Bhansali sir for the film Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela in 2012 and I have been with him ever since! He often calls me Bhansali sir’s gift to him,” says Darshan who also considers the actor to be his perfect canvas. “I don’t think any other actor at that point was open to so much experimentation with his looks. Also, it helps that he has the locks for it!” he adds.
He gave Ranbir Kapoor his signature look in Saawariya and styled Saif Ali Khan’s much talked-about look in Laal Kaptaan.
Before and after
But much before he became the hairdresser-in-chief for Ranveer, Darshan was the go-to guy of Salman Khan aka Bhai. “I met Bhansali sir at Salman’s. One day Bhai casually asked me to check out this young guy’s hair who was supposed to work in Bhansali sir’s next. It was Ranbir Kapoor and they were then prepping for Saawariya,” he recalls . However, he couldn’t work full-time on the project due to other commitments. At the time Darshan was not only a part of Salman Khan’s regular entourage but almost like a family member.
However, Darshan began his Bollywood journey as an apprentice with Aalim for Salman. “I left that job only because I wanted to do something on my own,” he says. Today, Darshan owns D Shave Barbershop, which is his second and more successful attempt at running his own salon.
“I was introduced to Ranveer by Bhansali sir for the film Ram-Leela and I have been with him ever since! He often calls me Bhansali sir’s gift to him”
“After leaving Bhai I had gone through a real bad phase where nothing really worked out. I had started a salon that I had to shut down within a year. I was 22 then. I had no money, was living in a chawl and on most days I’d starve. But going back was not an option because I couldn’t go to him as a failure. During those four years, before I landed Ram-Leela, I had hit rock-bottom, ” he shares and adds that post his glory days with Salman, he has seen the ugly side of the industry often facing discrimination. “I was a simple small-town Marathi guy, I was not fluent in English, and people even mocked my name,” says Darshan.
Darshan’s backstory unfolds in a small town called Bhusawal in Maharashtra where as a young boy of 16 his only dream is to get out of his hometown. In his head the ticket to this is to get himself enrolled in a college in Pune because Mumbai was still too far to reach even in a dream sequence. However, his dad - a man who doesn’t mince his words - sits him down and tells him that even Pune is unaffordable with his monthly salary of Rs 5000. In lower middle-class households, where money is usually the deciding factor, this meant the end of that conversation.
“My parents were always very supportive of whatever I did and provided me with the best of things they could afford, even though it meant only two sets of new clothes each year. I had not seen any better and I was content with what I got. So, I knew if my dad said he can’t afford something, he really can’t,” says Darshan who then decided to take admission in a local college. “I decided to enroll in microbiology. The dream then was to get a plum job somewhere in some big city. I had postponed my dream, not given up on it!” he smiles.
“After leaving Bhai I had gone through a real bad phase where nothing really worked out. But going back was not an option because I couldn’t go to him as a failure”
But after a while, his dad found a way to send his son to Pune. “We are barbers by caste and my mom used to work in a small parlour. Dad asked me if I wanted to do a hair styling course, and I would have said yes to anything that took me to Pune!” he quips. His idea of a college campus in Pune was everything Karan Johar movies prepare you for. “My class was actually happening inside an AC room and there were lifts! I loved everything about it,” he says.
It was not a time when hair styling was not regarded as a respectable option for a profession, especially for guys. His dad had thought that Darshan will do the six-month course, land a job at some local parlour and start earning.
Dream come true
He did start earning within three months of enrolling in that course. He was a quick learner and had it in his genes. He’d closely followed his mother all of his childhood while she was giving haircuts to her clients. In 12 days he picked up the basics, along with a fight with his teacher. This got him the attention of Jasbir Arora, one of the biggest names in the industry and the man behind the hair-styling course.
Darshan was given the opportunity to assist him and he meticulously mastered every trick of the trade. And by third month, he was sent to Indore to work at one of his newly-opened hair salons. “The salary was Rs 3500! I was 16. I had just passed my 12th!” he says recalling how her mom would charge Rs 15 for one haircut back home while growing up.
But he got bored with that job and came back to Pune. There one day he got a call from one of his seniors who casually invited him to come and visit him in Mumbai where he had landed a job in a cool salon and was working on a Bollywood film shoot. “The word ‘shoot’ piqued my interest. My connect with the world outside my town was through television and movies. And he said he was shooting with Sanjay Dutt,” Darshan says. So Darshan landed on the sets of Musafir. What was meant to be a day trip got stretched to an overnight one, and then he never went back.
“My senior introduced me to his boss, Aalim, who’d wanted to have a chat with me. So, I stayed back that night and the next day he took me on a movie set in Film City and casually made me meet a guy who looked a lot like Salman Khan. He called him Bhai. It was actually Salman Khan! Aalim introduced me to Bhai as his new assistant,” says Darshan.
That’s how he started working with Aalim for Salman Khan from that very day and in two days flat his life got a 360-degree makeover. He was 17 and his six-month course had not yet ended.
“Since in those days, calling my parents in Bhusawal meant making a long-distance call I couldn’t inform them about not being able to get back. The next day when I did call my dad I did so armed with an offer to work for none other than Salman Khan,” he says.
“I met Bhansali sir at Salman’s. One day Bhai casually asked me to check out this young guy’s hair who was supposed to work in Bhansali sir’s next. It was Ranbir Kapoor and they were then prepping for Saawariya”
Of course, his dad didn’t believe him and he had to get him to talk to his friend’s dad to convince him. Dreams have a strange way of finding you when you have traded them for alternate reality.
Today the boy from Bhusawal owns a salon in the heart of Bandra and is one of the most sought after hairstylists in Bollywood. But Darshan still prefers call himself a barber. “Why does a ‘barber’ require a fancy term? You call a doctor a doctor but you call a barber a hair-stylist!” he laughs out loud adding that until you respect your profession you can hardly ever do justice to it.
His aim is to bring the energy of a quintessential informal local barber shop back in a space that has cutting-edge technology. “The real art will never change. The comb over scissors technique of Indian barbers in unparalleled. I want Indian barbering to get international recognition and I want women to also come to ‘barber shops’ instead of going to ‘hair salons’! What’s really in a fancy name? You don’t need to change who you are. You just need to upgrade with time and tweak a few things.”
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From HT Brunch, November 24, 2019
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