Amit Thakur says his “heart sank” when — during her appearance on Koffee With Karan Season 7 — actor Janhvi Kapoor suddenly decided to hold her long hair in a bunch, get comfortable on the couch and make an updo during the rapid-fire round, as opposed to leaving it loose like how it was intended to be. “I wanted to kill her,” he joked.
The celebrity hairstylist, who calls himself a “hair artist”, has worked with many A-list Bollywood celebrities like Janhvi Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Alaya F, Sharvari, Taapsee Pannu, Katrina Kaif, Tara Sutaria, Anushka Sharma, among others. Needless to say, he is a known name in the hair industry.
During a recent interaction with indianexpress.com, Thakur got candid about his work, sharing with this outlet the experience of working with Katrina Kaif and Nayanthara for their bridal looks, why Deepika Padukone is the easiest celebrity to work with, what happens when there is a clash of ideas with an actor on what their hair should look like, and why hair stylists are not as vociferously credited as they should be.
Excerpts from the interview:
When did you begin your journey as a hair artist; do you remember your big Bollywood break?
I began my journey at the age of 20, when I was pursuing my bachelors in mass media. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but a cousin of mine was a hair stylist. She has a lot of influence on me as I spent a lot of time at her salon. I used to see people leave with so much confidence because of a simple change in hairstyle. That stuck with me, because I felt the stylists in the salon had the power to make people look and feel amazing about themselves.
That pushed me to choose hairstyling as a career. Once I started, I absolutely loved it. My first big Bollywood break was Huma Qureshi; when I was a complete fresher, she trusted me to style her hair for a few events. While I was still learning back then, we bonded because of our energies and were able to work together for a long time after.
You call yourself a hair artist and not a hair stylist; what is the difference between the two?
There is no difference. It is my perspective of looking at things. Ever since I was little, I was always painting, sketching and singing much like an artist. I was inclined towards the creative field and everything I do, I do it with a lot of passion and love. I treat it like an art. Even while styling hair, it is like art to me so I call myself a ‘hair artist’ rather than a ‘stylist’.
You created the look for Janhvi Kapoor for her recent Koffee with Karan appearance; take us through the process.
It won’t be ideal to take you through the process as it was absolutely crazy! It was such a memorable day, because we had a good time. We had a blast, because we were in such a good mood and behaving like we weren’t actually working. We were ordering food and chilling on set. We just did something for fun and it turned out to be beautiful. The response was amazing and I think she looked gorgeous. It was an effortless, creative, collaborative process.
How did you feel when she got comfortable on the couch and did an ‘updo’ during the rapid-fire round, and even apologised to you on camera?
I wanted to kill her! (Laughs) Jokes apart, we had put such a beautiful look together for her, so when she pulled her hair into an updo, my heart sank. But when I watched the episode from an audience’s perspective, it made sense to me. She wanted to prepare herself for the rapid-fire round and that was her way of doing things. Just like how boys put their sleeves up before doing anything; this is Janhvi’s way of saying ‘bring it on’. I’m glad she did it, because this is who she truly is — fun, spontaneous and cute.
You have worked with many Bollywood A-listers. Who has been the easiest to work with in terms of being accepting of your vision?
I would say Deepika [Padukone], because the one thing I like about her is that she trusts the artists and their creative process entirely. She gives them the liberty to do what they want. I think every artist deserves this freedom.
So, an actor who is most experimentative and willing to try new looks would be…
I would say Deepika, because she is someone who is open to experimenting, and honestly, a treat to work with!
What are some of the lesser-known facts and myths about hair styling?
The first myth is that people believe hair styling is not a lucrative career. The fact is that this career has given me everything I’ve wanted or dreamt of. I have also seen this happen with my students in the past. They are happy doing what they love. I met them when they were freshers and they have truly excelled.
This career is a constant learning experience. The learning never stops and with more and more practice, the art becomes better. The more fluid your creative process becomes, the more confident you get.
Do you create a look in tandem with the makeup? What factors determine how to style the hair?
It is a creative-but-collaborative process, where we come together to create a look for the celebrity. The event that the celebrity is attending helps us plan the look/s.
What role does regular hair care play when it comes to styling? How would you style or salvage hair that is damaged?
Hair care plays a very important role. Regular hair care means shampoo, conditioner, leave-on conditioner and serum — this can also be called home care. Now, one must choose an appropriate shampoo and conditioner for their hair type. For example, someone who has fine hair should choose a shampoo which is not heavy so that the hair doesn’t weigh down. To achieve the desired results the right home care is essential.
When it comes to styling damaged hair, even before I start the process, I use a lot of nourishing, moisturising products to give the hair a healthy shine so it appears that it is healthy. I use products that don’t have a lot of chemicals and aren’t harmful. Sticking to organic products is recommended. Even trimming the damaged hair/split ends can be a great way to save the hair.
You styled Katrina Kaif’s hair for her wedding with Vicky Kaushal. Tell us about the experience.
That was such a beautiful experience and also so easy. Katrina wanted everything super organised for her wedding so that she could enjoy the big day. Prior to the wedding, the entire team — the stylist, makeup artist and I, along with the bride — got together to create the looks.
She was entirely involved in conceptualising her looks. We also created a wedding document where all the looks were there, and that included a thorough breakdown of each. On the day of the function, we just referred to the document and we knew exactly what we had to do. This made the process seamless. This was a great initiative from Katrina and I wish every bride is like that because it makes the process more fun.
You also worked with Nayanthara for her wedding look…
She was such a lovely, sweet and accommodating bride. She gave me and Puneet (makeup artist Puneet B Saini) the liberty to do whatever we wanted to do. She trusted us and our process was great! She and her husband make such a cute couple!
What happens when there is a clash of ideas between what you want for the client/actor, and how they want to look?
Interesting question; this happens a lot. An actor or an artist always has their vision. For instance, when I go for a job, I have my vision of what I want to create. But maybe, she is in another mood and wants to look a certain way. So it cannot happen unless it’s a collaborative process. We are all working toward the same goal whether it is a brand, a script or a story. I try to balance the requirement of the script/brand and what the actor wants.
And finally, why do you think there is little recognition for all the efforts that go into styling the hair?
This is because hair is a very subtle form of art. It is not something that is in-your-face. For example, when you talk about styling (clothing), it is very apparent. It is also the same with makeup as there are multiple elements like lip colour, blush, lashes etc. But, for instance, you get your makeup and styling done, but you don’t do your hair — you carry a just-out-of-bed-look. Imagine how that would look! I say it is a subtle form of art, but an important one, as it completes every look and brings it together.