Celebrity hair designer Darshan Yewalekar is the man behind the mane of several celebrities. Flaunted by the likes of Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, his work is that of magic. Like many successful people, he too struggled to get where he is, and we were lucky enough to hear it from him.
What we see on our screens in the name of a movie is just the outcome, but we don’t realise the arduous process it takes to produce it. An entire crew is required to create what we enjoy. From writing the script to shooting the scenes and designing the looks, every aspect and crew member is equally important. We have seen many great appearances in several movies, and the people behind them are the stylists, makeup artists and hairstylists. We had the opportunity to get insights into the life of celebrity hair designer Darshan Yewalekar and his journey to who he is now, the reason behind Ranveer Singh’s several looks, using words like brotherhood, inspiring and pushing boundaries to describe working with him. Ranveer Singh killed it in the iconic look of notable Kapil Dev for the movie 83, and the ‘mane man’ behind it is celebrity hair designer Darshan Yewalekar.
In conversation with Darshan Yewalekar about his passion for hairstyling and his struggle towards success:
As Ranveer Singh’s hairstylist from his earliest days, how would you describe his hair evolution?
I think I can surely describe his hair evolution to my work evolution as well because he’s got a beautiful set of hair. It’s like a clean slate. He’s someone who’s been growing exponentially because of hard work and the projects he has done. I think it has created a revolution of style, hairstyles to be projected or what a mainstream hero can do.
Given that you have styled stars like Ranbir Kapoor and Salman Khan, which is the most challenging look you have ever done?
For Salman Khan, I remember I had created a look where I had done a global and highlights for him, for a film called Yuvraj that was directed by Mr Subhash Ghai. I remember we did that styling like I had this idea in my mind, which I presented to him, and he said, okay, we’ll do this in Austria, where the first-day shoot took place. So, I went there and figured out a set-up for him and started doing his colour. It was the first time he was doing something out of the box. There’s a technique that we used where we completely pre-lighten the hair and then coat it with the desired colour. So what I did, the pre-lightened hair was quite bright. I remember Salman Bhai, borderline I don’t know, taking my case and saying, what have you done with my hair? It’s my first day? I told him, no, this is just the first half the second half is yet to be done. Finally, after giving him a little bit of confidence and giving him a complete look, I think that look really came through what I did for Yuvraj.
It was a memorable moment for me, and it was something different that I created for him. With Ranbir Kapoor, the first time that I met him, my experience with him was fantastic. My first collaboration was Sanjay Sir. He discovered me, he discovered my talent, and he gave me the freedom to what I could do with the hairstyle. I remember creating the soft hair and the front-flowy hair for him in Saawariya. I think there was so much learning that I got to do from the first 15 days’ shoot with him. It was a dream come true. As a child, you always look up to him for his work, like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, and Black. I got to stand right next to him in front of the monitor where he is giving you tasks. It was revolutionary.
What were your sources of inspiration and the details you had to consider when it came to Ranveer Singh’s look from 83?
The photographs, the videos, the data that we had pulled out, we had to mirror it. I, for the first time, looked at hair microscopically and not just as the overall look. I had to go into every detail, every corner of the hair part, like the forehead, from front waves to make sure the waves are matching exactly like Kapil Sir’s waves in 83. And looking into the moustache, that was the most crucial part where we looked into each strand, making sure it all comes in place. We took almost five moustaches to achieve that. I’ve never looked at a look microscopically than just looking at it as an overall look. So, this was a very different approach and opportunity for me to create the iconic Kapil Sir’s look. I have never seen it in that detail. I had to zoom in and make sure every part, right, left, side-block matches the lip line. It was beautiful. It taught me a lot.
Would you say that the 83 look is one of the most challenging ones apart from Salman Khan’s Yuvraj look?
Yes, till the time I’ve been working with Ranveer since 2012, I think that’s the beauty of us as a team and as a gang. We always try to push our boundaries with everything that we do and make sure that whatever we recruit is out of our comfort zone. 83 was another one that we created for Ranveer like, if you see Bajirao taking the call of going bald or Padmavat to his editorial looks, we have developed a certain kind of process. I think, somewhere, we have that adrenaline rush. It’s like free-falling, the rush you get is what you get when you approach a project, and your response is jump. So when you jump, the adrenaline rush, that energy that comes in to think of something different, is what we look forward to for every project.
When did you realise that hairstyling is your passion?
I realised very early, around the age of 16. I am from Bhusawal, so my drive to study in the city was quite high. My father very honestly sat me down and told me, “I don’t think we can afford it.” The only thing they could afford was putting me in hairstyling. From day one, when I sat in the class, I knew I was going to love this. Design and craft have always been my passion. I was always good at extra-curricular activities. I don’t look at it as work but, I look at it as passion and art. I started really early and, I started from the bottom.
Tell us about your journey into the industry and what have been the challenges in establishing yourself?
The journey has been beautiful. I have been lucky enough to have shared my journey and had the guidance of people who are big and very authoritative in their position. In my initial years, I assisted someone in designing the looks. But when I stepped down to start work as an independent artist, I realised there was a struggle because you’re not from the city, and you’re not from the industry so, you don’t know anybody, and you’re all alone. All you have for yourself is that middle work. The media boom was not there, so people were not that aware of your work or craft so, you couldn’t put yourself out there. It was very difficult the years after that, from 2008 to 2012. But, thankfully, Sanjay Sir had discovered me for Ranbir Kapoor. He had, I think somewhere, seen my drive to create something. He had given me an open card for if I ever needed to do something or come on board. So I went to him, and he gave me the opportunity to design Aditya Roy Kapur’s hair for Guzaarish. But after that, again, there was a phase where I wasn’t recognised as big enough. I think you are always striving to get attention, and it was something I had to face. There was a transformation of personality, too, from the mainstream boy at the age of 22 seeing the industry from a certain perspective to suddenly realising the beauty of the situation. It was a great learning experience, the downtime I’d like to call it, for four years.
Then in 2012, I got a great opportunity again to work with Ranveer. It is where it brightened up for me because he loved my approach to the look I wanted to create for Ram Leela. In 10 days, he asked me if I wanted to work on his second film, and I told him that I didn’t have work or money, and I could do anything for him. Before that, I was getting the so-called B grade heroes, getting me to do some hair here and there. I was freelancing and trying to make enough money for my rent, my food. There was a time I was spending 100 bucks a week on food, and that was the only money I had. So, I had my own struggling phase but, my passion and my drive kept me going. Those people who showed their love and were always around me, who looked after me in my downtime, I realised my value. After Ranveer offered me the second film, there was no looking back. It was just about execution. By that time, I had the true learning of the craft and true learning of the world and the business side of my craft.
Eight years went by before the pandemic hit, and we were just doing films. It was magical, every day, we would wake up, and we got the opportunity to do something that we both love, his passion for acting and my passion for hair, and I think that was a great combination and collision of energy. I think Ranveer has pulled me up a lot in this period. There are sunny days and, there are, rainy days but, as a team, you stand tall together is what I always say no matter what. Now that I look back to 2019, when I got some time to reflect on what was done, we both realised that we had done some exponential work in those eight years. My passion for creating my own space didn’t die. I saved up money, and I opened my own barbershop. There was a struggle again because there was no support, nobody telling you how to do things, what to do, you’re all alone. So I still stayed humble, saved up money and opened my own barbershop, which Ranveer came and saw and gave me as much love and energy for that. I think the journey has been fruitful.
Every underdog story has a struggle, and nobody sees that everybody sees the final glory. But it takes a lot of hurdles to get there, and I am not going to say that I have seen them all but, I think I have experienced most of it, and it has prepared me not to worry. No matter how downtime is, you’re the only one to pick yourself up. I think that stuck by me and keeps me growing. Now from only designing Ranveer, I have gone to design the whole thing. I am getting on board with certain people, being the in-house designer for them. I think that downtime really gave me that kind of confidence to push my boundaries and fall in love with the process, no matter what the outcome. The outcome is just about a result where people will have their opinions. You should love what you do every day and take it with a pinch of salt even if it’s a success or failure, keep moving, keep going ahead, and that is what I learnt from my downstage.
Hero & Featured Image Courtesy: Darshan Yewalekar