The last thing you expect on your second day on a film set is to find yourself face to face with actor Salman Khan, but that's the semi-charmed life of hairstylist Darshan Yewalekar for you.
Following his instinct has been an essential part of Yewalekar's journey. Originally from a small town called Bhusawal in Maharashtra and armed with only a high secondary school certificate, Yewalekar, 36, set his sights on Mumbai after a chance conversation with a friend. "In 2002, one of my friends was working in Bombay," he said. "He used to work in a big salon, designing hair for actors. When he said he was working on a set, I was mesmerised. As a small-town child, you want to know how films are made." So Yewalekar caught a bus to Mumbai from Pune, where he was doing a hairstyling course (Pune was the first time he would find himself in an airconditioned room). No one at home knew Yewalekar had skipped off to the bigger city to spend a day on a film set. It was supposed to be just a day trip, but his friend introduced Yewalekar to his boss and convinced Yewalekar to stay another day. "My phone was switched off because back then we had city roaming. I thought I'll just lie to my parents for a night, [saying] that my battery was low or whatever," he said. When he went to set the next day, he found himself standing before Khan, who had just delivered Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001). "The boss asked me, 'Will you handle it?' and I said 'Of course, I will'. And that's how my journey began."
Today Yewalekar, 36, is actor Ranveer Singh's hairstylist-in-chief. He's the one who gave Singh the shaggy, overgrown hair that became the focal point of the song "Tattad Tattad" in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013). Singh is known for his versatility as an actor and the way he changes his appearance — including his hair style — is often a central part of his performance. Just think of the contrast between the simple, side-parted hair that he had as Murad, which emphasised the character's everyman quality; and the mane Singh sported while playing Alauddin Khilji in Padmaavat (2018). The unruly, chest-length hair gave his Khilji an air of wildness and hinted at a disregard for conventions (and combs).
Ram-Leela is the first film in which Singh and Yewalekar worked together. Before that, Yewalekar had worked with Salman Khan for six years and then taken the plunge as an independent hairstylist. Initially, working on his own taught him many harsh lessons, but he was also able to establish himself. For Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Saawariya (2007), which was Yewalekar's first independent collaboration, the hairstylist was given charge of soon-to-be-megastar Ranbir Kapoor's hair. However, for Yewalekar, the bigger thrill was working with Bhansali. "I remember as a child I used to watch Bhansali sir walk on to award show stages with his mother and I would watch that with my parents on our television. I felt so much pride. He was bigger than a star for me," remembered Yewalekar. Saawariya led to styling Aditya Roy Kapoor's hair in Guzaarish (2010), before the director opened the doors to Ram-Leela and Ranveer Singh – a collaboration that Yewalekar laughingly described as a "match made in heaven".
"What Ranveer wants to do with acting, I want to do with hairstyling," said Yewalekar. Speaking about his first meeting with Singh on the sets of Ram-Leela, Yewalekar said, "I showed Ranveer a few sketches, [showing him] how I see the character, Ram. Bhansali sir had asked me to keep the beard. I did the first style and everybody loved it. Everyone saw Ram coming together."
Their collaboration has continued successfully and most recently, Yewalekar wrapped Karan Johar's Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani. We'll have to wait till next year to figure out how the overgrown mullet fits into Singh's character in the film. Describing his relationship with Singh, Yewalekar said, "We have our rainy days and disagreements. But we work through it. There is a lot of unsaid love. Ranveer has such great thick hair, and he is willing to experiment – as a hairstylist aur kya chahiye life main yaar? (What more do you need in life?)"