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.
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!
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!