Veenu Sandhu meets celebrity hairstylist Adhuna Akhtar who is all set to make her small screen debut
Twenty years ago, a 25-year-old woman arrived in Mumbai with little money in her purse, a backpack on her shoulders and a pair of scissors in her pocket. A hairstylist from London, the epicentre of hairstyling, she had come to check out India and see what she could do with the Indian hair which was very different from the Caucasian hair she’d largely been dealing with back home. But she didn’t intend to stay on for more than a few months.
Two decades later, Adhuna Akhtar is one of India’s leading celebrity hairstylists, has been the one to revolutionalise the way Bollywood’s leading men and women wear their hair to enhance the character they’re portraying and is married to actor-director Farhan Akhtar. Always the one to assist from behind the camera, she’s now making her debut on small screen.
Starting July 16, Akhtar will be on TLC every night at 10 for a small stretch of six days doing what she enjoys most — snipping away in her parlour, b:blunt. Started in Mumbai, her salon has since branched out to Bangalore, Delhi, and Pune. That’s where the name of the show, Be Blunt with Adhuna Akhtar, comes from. On the show, six women chosen from different backgrounds and leading very different lives — one of them is someone who likes to play with fire, literally — get a makeover from Akhtar who also offers hair care and styling tips during the course of the conversation. The show is clearly targeted at the young, modern, aspirational Indian woman. And in that sense, it takes a bit of a narrow approach considering that Akhtar’s most extraordinary, and her personal favourite, work is what she did on three men — Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna in the 2001 coming-of-age film Dil Chahta Hai, which was also the first film written and directed by Farhan Akhtar. It was the first time all the characters involved had a dramatic makeover.
But her toughest challenge so far has been the look she gave Preity Zinta in the 2004 Lakshya, which had the lead lady supporting both long and short hair. “I had chosen a wig for the short-hair look,” says Akhtar. The film was being shot in the extreme conditions of Ladakh. As Zinta stepped out for her shot, to her horror Akhtar watched the wig on her head expand. Thankfully, she says, no such disasters happened on Be Blunt.
Akhtar says she fell into the art as a child when she “would accompany my mother (she has an English mother and a Bengali father) to the hairdresser in England.” In the years that followed, she participated in various hairstyling competitions. “There were so many — salon versus salon, avant-garde, creative hairdos. There were practically world cup championships in hairdressing,” she says. In India, she worked at the Oberoi and later joined L’Oreal. Before she knew it, she was in the celebrity circle.
Her father-in-law, Javed Akhtar, once told her that before he met her, “Farhan had no hairstyle”. “Farhan,” she says, “has coarse hair.” Or as hairstylists would subtly term it, “textured hair.” But, she adds, over the years “we’ve managed to fix that.” So how come she has never stolen the show from her husband? She replies with a glint in her eyes: “I’m about to.”