The actor we bump into occasionally at parties is more an acquaintance than a friend. Even so, I could tell that the hirsute eruption on his head – what fashionistas refer to as “big Hair” – seemed on account of artificial help. A few weeks previously, he’d had what appeared to be a normal head of hair, only here he was now, sprouting dreadlocks like a sixties rock star “He has to be my age,” I hissed to my wife, “that cannot be his original hair.” “No one can be your age,” my wife hissed right back, “you were born old,” and promptly went over to talk to the actor while I gazed enviously at his curls.
It’s no secret that actors and associated glamourati invest in wigs, toupees, hair extensions and follicle growth because their careers depend on it. Would Shah Rukh Khan look as appealing if he had a pate instead of, surely, I insist to my wife, “assisted hair”? His face might look old but his hair can still pull in shampoo commercials. Salman Khan’s thinning locks were evident at almost the start of his career. Amitabh Bachchan might be celluloid’s god, but if that’s his own hair, I want to be on the diet that he’s on. The contagion that requires you to look young has struck everyone from anchors to cricket commentators — Harsha Bhogle’s pelt, these days, makes him look like a goofy teenager instead of someone who’s receding hairline we’d grown used to on our screens.
If everyone in Bollywood, or on television, is at great pains to hide evidence of thinning strands or greying hair, blame it on the entertainment industry — stars, and American presidents apparently, cannot be allowed out unless they sport sufficiently luxuriant tresses. But when you and I are judged by the same measure, it’s a serious cause for concern. “You’re not really that old,” my boss commiserated with me the other day, tut-tuting about his own slightly declining hairline. A senior artist I know who took a nasty stumble at a dinner party seemed more concerned about fixing his slipped wig than paying attention to the considerable physical injury he’d suffered. Increasingly, now, people in the corporate world have begun to slip into wigs, stage-managing their silvered sideburns to peep through in clever manipulation. You only realise the trickery when their hair remains the same length and style day after day, neither growing longer, nor showing the results of a barber’s scissors.
“I don’t think I’m vain,” I complained to my wife about someone we’d met over dinner who wondered whether I might be from his batch – he turned out to be 15 years older – “but maybe I should consider a new head of hair.” In recent months, I’ve taken to wearing the pink and orange wigs at mardi gras or fancy-dress parties longer than is strictly necessary. Not that I intend to scare an office meeting by appearing in a dark mop, but my son tells me there are clinics that might be able to grow back some of my own hair for a considerable fee but no guarantees. I tell him it’s hopeless — even text messages assuring me of hair rejuvenation have, of late, started to dry up. Meanwhile, I’m hoping the actor with the big mane is offered a character role that requires him to be bald — that would serve my wife right for sucking up to a man narcissistic enough to wear a wig in public.