Retro Bollywood Hairstyles from Caravan (1971): Wigs, Teasing, and More Wigs

Asha Parekh sports long side-parted bangs with a girlish ribbon and a bouffant wig in the exciting opening chase scene of Caravan (1971). And please don’t ignore the matching orange lipstick!

In India in the 60s and early 70s, Hindi film heroines were notorious for sporting heavy wig pieces day-to-day that added volume, glamour, and pizazz. Hairdos in India from that time period sought to create works of art atop a woman’s head, from simple teased crown, to elaborate braiding with ornaments, jewelry, and soaring heights. The key was to wear enormous wigs and lots of them (and yes, those wigs are made of REAL hair!)

Big hair was by no means a strictly Indian phenomena. Starting as early back in history as the famous wigs of Marie Antoinette, puffy bouffant styles were sported not just in films, but by First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the 60s and took the musical South by storm when Dolly Parton learned how to tease (a word for the back-combing technique used to bulk up layers of hair). But I’d say, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s  (1961) aside, Indian women like Sharmila Tagore and Asha Parekh were the ones to bring it to new levels.

The overall effect when done correctly can be extremely elegant and beautiful–at some point or another, we’ve all tried to emulate big hair in the hopes of looking fabulous. But, of course as you’ll see, there are always those special moments when wigs go wild and the ‘do takes on an alternate life of its own.

Check out our gallery of fabulous retro Bollywood hairdos sported by Asha Parekh in the 1971 film Caravan (yes, it’s 1971, but the styles are super 60s!). This film is notable for many reasons, from a delightfully ridiculous plot to a magical soundtrack enhanced by Helen’s insane dance moves. But every time I watch it, I am way too distracted by Asha Parekh’s latest ‘do to care for anything else. Haute couture meets gypsy allure, good intentions meet near-lethal doses of hairspray. After all, the higher the hair, the closer to God.

Who is it?? Why, it’s little bo peep. She wants her ribbon back.

Asha’s fabulous ‘do in the opening scene of Caravan has tight long curls, a side-tied white ribbon, and of course, a 4-inch high wig.

Asha goes gypsy! Note the most important touch of all: the little ringlet of hair by her cheek that probably was once a delicate sideburn.

Hair parted in the center is getting slightly more 70s than 60s, but thank goodness you threw in that 3-inch poof, Asha. Otherwise, I don’t think the look had enough crazy going on.

What a pleasant little surprise! The back of the ‘do is as wild as the front! What was the stylist really going for with this ruffled little back-bun? Historians may never know.

Bring on the ribbons! And the back-up dancers.

Oh, just kidding–those aren’t ribbons after all! They are bangles arranged like a pillbox hat at the crown of the coiffe! You can never be too creative with accessories, can you?

I like the “au natural” look of the long sweeps of locks hanging to one side. And look how Asha made the “jhumar” a day-to-day fashion accessory long before it became vogue!

Drooping pigtails with bright yellow flower ties for a much-needed pop of colour.

Great hair aside…I think the most striking aspect of this photo is that Asha is about to have a conniption on-screen.

I love the side-parted pigtail village look. Who cares if you’re pushing 40 years old?!

I could do without the brushed back bangs in the center, while leaving an awkward patch of bangs to the side. But perhaps it’s all part of how distressed she’s supposed to be?

Again with the awkward patch of bangs! I far prefer some Sadhana-fringe.

You get a good sense of the volume of hair involved in the making of this ‘do in this shot.

The forehead to wig-height ratio is borderline criminal.

Asha Parekh in Caravan 48

Classic example of a ‘do taking on it’s own life. It’s like she’s attacking Jeetendra, and her hair is attacking her. The hair wins, of course.

Asha Parekh in Caravan 49

The glamour shot is nice–especially since you can’t see all the little people jumping off the top of her ‘do to commit suicide.

Asha Parekh in Caravan 50

Back to a simple, conservative ribbon with moderate heights. That’s more like it!

Oh, and a little curl too? Sign me up!!

Asha Parekh in Caravan 51a

Love how far back the ribbon is pushed–less of a headband, more an accessory to make room for the beehive.

Asha Parekh in Caravan 52

I don’t know how I feel about pony-tails this short and this puffy.

Asha Parekh in Caravan 54

Very Audrey Hepburn from the front. We’ll take it.

Asha Parekh in Caravan 56

These bangs are classic from this era–the angled part, the bouffant! If only it had been a French twist in the back instead of an incomplete pony.

Now after seeing this gallery, you must be under the mistaken impression that Asha Parekh does nothing but make painfully melodramatic faces in throughout the film. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but just know that in addition to that, she dances occasionally too. Asha Parekh’s hairstyles are so mesmerizing in this film, that you shouldn’t really be looking for much artistic depth.

Now why, you may be asking, am I so invested in retro Bollywood hairdos? I’ve been planning my look for my fiance and my official engagement party and needed some 70s inspiration! I’m probably one of the few brides-to-be these days that are still all about the vintage Bollywood look–from sweeping cat-eyeliner to hair that reaches the ceiling. I went through dozens of old school films to perfect the ‘do I wanted. Here’s the final product!

My attempt at Asha Parekh fabulousness with a retro Bollywood hair do!

It’s a classy mixture of Asha’s best looks in Caravan, complete with flowers! Now although I did not use wigs, my tricks were to use LOTS and LOTS of hairspray, back-combing like my life depended on it, and a puffy headband underneath the bump to give some structural support to the ‘do.

For more galleries of costumes from the great films of the 60s and 70s, check out our earlier post on famed Bollywood costume designer Mani Rabadi!

-Mrs. 55

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14 thoughts on “Retro Bollywood Hairstyles from Caravan (1971): Wigs, Teasing, and More Wigs

  1. You look Bollywood Gorgeous!!!
    And as they say “the higher the hair the closer to God!” Certainly here in Texas it’s still a tradition.
    Congratulations to you both! May God bless you for a long and happy life together.

  2. You look lovely! And congratulations to you both. Wish you a very happy live ahead. God bless.
    Now that you mention Asha’s hairdo in Caravan, I feel like I concentrated too much on the songs while watching the movie and completely missed out on the most interesting part of it 😉
    I need to re-watch this film soon.

    • I can never watch Caravan too many times! It’s one of those great masala films with enough melodrama and absolutely brilliant songs that there’s seriously never a dull moment–despite how lacking in depth the whole thing really is 😉

  3. And a Third ! Wishing you & beau a fun-filled, happy, healthy life together where the movie never ends – keep the spools rollilng guys 🙂
    I was jolted out of my seat on seeing flowers blooming out of your hair ;-))

    Hair’s raising a toast to the soon-to-be-engaged couple ….

    Loved the post. I’ve always wondered at the amount of time they must’ve spent with the stylist – such a colossal waste ! However, those buffons did make those shorter heroines look a bit taller. Can’t imagine that today when most heroines are way taller than the present-day hero. How comic would she appear with a high buffon in addition to the 6-inch heels ! Hero would have a tough time reaching up to kiss her – forget a french kiss, it would look quite inelegant.
    But their profiles look tres comique !

    I’ve always wondered how the stars would have felt while belting out lyrics eulogising beautiful zulfeiN but actually holding a wigged head between their hands 😛 And this holds true for both sexes. I hadn’t realised it was all real hair. Maybe it was the large doses of hairspray that made it look so stiff & dry. I remember one song with Hema & either Shashi or Dev where one lock keeps getting displaced & reset during the entire sequence – very distracting 😉

    A slight “raising of hair” seems to be back in vogue in Indian media. I see a lot of anchors & studio newsreaders with an enhanced, slightly elevated back half sans the elaborate hairdo. This slight raise does help avoid a passport-photo-type front view, especially as the aging heads start to thin out. Thankfully they leave their hair loose.

    • You’re right–if you watch Rajesh Khanna “Bombay Superstar” BBC documentary, there’s a moment where they talk about how long it takes the actresses like Mumtaz or Dimple Kapadia to get ready for a shoot or a party. With those elaborate ‘dos, it took hours! But hey, it would be great for short ladies looking to add a few inches! Unfortunately, in Bollywood, it’s always the men who seem to be shorter haha!

      I’m glad the retro look is coming back in fashion. I’ll try to look into which song you mean with the lock getting displaced–that sounds annoying and also hilarious! Thanks for the sweet wishes!

      • I just noticed you’ve changed your photo above – you Do make a beautiful, happy couple. Hope you always stay this way 🙂
        Throw away the umbrella & bask in the good wishes & blessings being showered on you !
        Looking forward to some more mr&mrs55 pics.

  4. What a beautiful fiancee!

    Who was the actress who was most known for her hair-do’s? Was it Asha Parekh? Is she the only one who influenced you?

    • Great question! All the actresses had their moments–who can forget Sharmila’s signature long braid and bouffant? Or Sadhana’s stylish, Western fringe bangs? We’ll have more posts in future on fashion styles of the stars–stay tuned because we love them all!

  5. Pingback: Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi | Mr. & Mrs. 55 - Classic Bollywood Revisited!

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