Laal Kaptaan hairstylist Darshan Yewalekar deconstructs process of designing Saif Ali Khan's Naga sadhu headgear

Laal Kaptaan hairstylist Darshan Yewalekar talks about designing Saif Ali Khan's striking headgear in Laal Kaptaan, and collaborating with Ranveer Singh on all his hairstyles.

Devansh Sharma October 20, 2019 10:11:06 IST
Laal Kaptaan hairstylist Darshan Yewalekar deconstructs process of designing Saif Ali Khan's Naga sadhu headgear

In an industry obsessed with deifying the star, the spotlight often evades those who work tirelessly behind the scenes.  And so, in this column titled Beyond the Stars, Firstpost highlights the contributions of film technicians who bring their expertise to the table.

Even if you have not seen Navdeep Singh's historical drama Laal Kaptaan earlier this week, you must have come across the unforgettable look of the protagonist, played by Saif Ali Khan. One of the most striking aspects of his appearance is his hair, which underlines his role of a Naga sadhu in the film. Firstpost interviewed hairstylist Darshan Yewalekar, who is behind Saif's look in the film, but also all the Ranveer Singh appearances since Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela. Excepts from the interaction below.

Laal Kaptaan hairstylist Darshan Yewalekar deconstructs process of designing Saif Ali Khans Naga sadhu headgear

Saif Ali Khan in a still from Laal Kaptaan. YouTube

What research on Naga sadhus did you have to put in to come up with Saif Ali Khan's hairstyle in Laal Kaptaan?

Naga sadhus have a very distinct and evident look. A Naga sadhu is a man who renounces his social life and all his belongings to become a sadhu. They live like a nomads traveling to religious destinations, and pray to Lord Shiva. The sadhus are always covered with bhabuti (ashes), which is a white powder. As they follow God’s path, they do not care about themselves. They never cut their hair and beard, so dreadlocks are bound to form. This is where the inspiration for the look came from.

As per your interaction with the costume designer, how did you arrive at a hairstyle that could complement the overall look?

"Maxima (Basu) and I had done three films before Laal Kaptaan. So there was a sync in ideas. We definitely benefited from costume research, and there were many accessories that I pulled out from her box, which made a great addition to the hair in general.

There are fleeting shots in the trailer when Saif's hair is left open, without any braids. Is that move usually associated with a character getting liberated or unhinged?<

True, I feel like us even hair has emotion, and my fight is always to make sure that the hair express the emotion that the character is feeling in that particular scene. I start with giving a basic structure to the hair. In this case, we first designed the long hair like a Naga sadhu. This gave us a nice scope to form dreadlocks at the bottom. Then keeping the character and scene in mind, we decided to tie it up or let it open.

How challenging was the landscape of Laal Kaptaan to design?

For me, reading the script is very important. It gives me a proper understanding of the film, and the look I will have to scale as per the theme. Laal Kaaptan had character ranging with different geographical regions and distinct characteristics. With this, I pushed my envelope a little, went back to knowing their history and then aligning the look. Also, when I met Navdeep for the first time, he handed over a 46-folder e-documents that he had researched on. This helped me a lot to build on the looks for all the character. Below was the flow I started building on this skeleton of research:

• Hair texture
• The clan each character belonged to
• Their hierarchy
• History of the character
• Age, and the surrounding they belonged to

From the first time you worked with Ranveer Singh, how much have you observed him on his hairstyle choices for red carpet and magazine shoots?

I was introduced to Ranveer Singh by Sanjay sir (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) for the film Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela in 2012, and since then, we have been working together on films and everything where Ranveer is featured. I still remember the first time I presented and executed the look for Ram-Leela. He has always given me liberty to hone the look for films and his other appearances. There is a drill we follow due to which we all are on the same page, eventually giving the exact look we want for the particular event etc. Ranveer has a personality to carry bold looks, and he will never shy away from expressing himself through his style statement. That gives me immense confidence to go all out with his hair styling.

One memorable look of Ranveer I can recall is when he went to Berlinale for Gully Boy. How did you come up with that hairstyle in particular?

That’s one of my favourite looks. To be honest, my major inspiration came from the costume done by Nitasha (Gaurav, Ranveer's stylist). I took the opportunity of being in Berlin, the creative capital of the world, to create something that’s big and textured, more of abstract formation of the curls.

Laal Kaptaan hairstylist Darshan Yewalekar deconstructs process of designing Saif Ali Khans Naga sadhu headgear

Ranveer Singh at Berlinale 2019. Twitter

In all the three Bhansali films you have designed his hairstyle, which one has been the most special?

All three, hands down! I recently designed Meezan’s hair as well for Sanjay sir's production (Malaal).

Ranveer has often said all aspects of his life change when he prepares for a role. How much does the hairstyle add to his preparation?

Hair makes 30 percent of the face. As we work on characters, we get into the gene of it, from texture for the hair to the nature of the character he’s playing. Lot of research goes in figuring all aspects of hair for that particular character. Once we finalise the hair, it just helps Ranveer to get into the skin of the character. As we say achieve the correct look, you win half the battle in convincing people, and give them a more immersive experience into the world that we create.

Ranveer is known for his eccentric style in appearances and red carpets. Do you keep the hair relatively normal in order to balance the look?

As I said, every event has its feel and mood. When you talk about red carpet, you want to be dapper and uber cool. It goes hand in hand with costume, and which red carpet you are talking about. If it's fashion then you have a liberty to go a bit easy and editorial but when you talk about more formal set ups, the slick-looking hair works better.

In the new generation, you have also designed for Ayush Sharma and Meezan. Have you seen a generational shift in how they perceive their hairstyle?

Yes, the new generation looks at hair as a more integral part of character creation. They are more open to experiment. I can say they are ready to let their hair loose and guards down. I feel there is a huge shift happening in the industry for technicians as cinema has progressed, and there is voice for everyone, like for makeup, hair, prosthetic, costumes etc.

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