Amit Yashwant's journey from local barber to Tiger Shroff's hairstylist
Hairstylist Amit Yashwant shares his journey from being a local barber for farmers in Ratnagiri to Tiger Shroff's main man
As a local barber in Ratnagiri, Amit Yashwant had to limit his creativity and desire to experiment. His clients, mostly poor farmers and land tillers, weren't interested in undercuts, razor fades or pompadours. The haircuts had to be short, functional and easy to maintain. "I had to visit neighbouring hamlets looking for customers because there was no culture of even visiting barbershops," says Yashwant, who started cutting hair after flunking Std VII. While a haircut would cost R10, a shave was offered for R5. The earnings were negligible, but enough to sustain his interest in the profession. "It's the only thing I was good at. So, I would try to get my hands on Marathi newspapers and magazines to find out about trending haircuts," he says.
This was in 2007.
Cut to present.
Amit Yashwant at his salon in Khar. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Yashwant still travels for work, but in Mumbai's hip and sophisticated circles. His clients include actors Tiger Shroff, Disha Patani, Nidhi Agarwal and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, among others. He even runs his own salon in Khar called Manemaniac Hair Studio that's frequented by lifestyle influencers and celebrities. If fame is coming thick and fast, it's because he did not allow the years of rejection to get the better of him. "When I moved to Mumbai in 2008, I could not speak a word of English. Due to this, no salon in the city wanted to hire me," he says. In Mumbai, it's a different matter that Yashwant is still more comfortable speaking Hindi and Marathi than English, but his initial awkwardness with the language has been ironed out. "Ironically, I had a smoother time negotiating Londoners while studying at Vidal Sassoon Academy than I did in Mumbai," he laughs, adding that most of the communication was through actions and diagrams. It's here that he got his hands dirty, learning bobs, crops and shaggy pixies. "The Indian climate impacts hair to a great extent. We tend to have frizzy, thick and more voluminous fuzz than Westerners," he says. The moolah for his stint at the famed UK institute was acquired after saving up, bit by bit, from working at salons in Jogeshwari and Ghatkopar. In Mumbai, Yashwant had to learn how men coif themselves with gels and waxes. He also extended his skills to grooming women.
Looking back, if Yashwant had to pick a turning point, he says it would be meeting his mentor, Dhruv Abhichandani, who works as the artistic director at Ghatkopar's Drama Salon. He was one of the few who saw the potential in Yashwant. "The first time he saw me cut hair, he thought I was terrible. My techniques were outdated and needed tweaking. So he set about teaching me." If it wasn't for Abhichandani, who signed him up for hairstyling courses at reputed institutes, Yashwant says he would never had the confidence to go to the UK.
At the Ghatkopar salon, the young stylist got his first celebrity client, Kunal Kemmu. By then, he had gained a small but loyal set of clients. At the time, the actor had long hair, which he would eventually chop off in favour of a short, edgy look. He had to snip Tiger Shroff's hair for his look in Baaghi. "Tiger loved his short-hair look so much that he decided to continue with it."
Today, Yashwant straddles haircuts at his salon and on movie sets. The latter is a greater challenge, he says. "When you come to my salon, I give you a haircut and my job is done. But at a set, I need to ensure that same look is recreated every day, at least for the next three months," he says. His team of stylists are people like him: hailing from small towns. "Many of them might not be comfortable speaking English, but come with robust skills. Language should not be a deterrent when you're cutting hair."
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