Shivarama Bhandary has built an enviable and loyal clientele of celebrities, political scions and other notable faces from Mumbai’s ever-elusive elite that lets its hair down at the Shiva’s salons across nine centres from Nariman Point to Dombivilli. Success is on his fingertips. His academy featured in director Madhur Bhandarkar’s film Heroine in which he styled actress Kareena Kapoor. Other films he has hair-dressed for are Yaariyan, Kya Love Story Hai, Rajjo, Angry Young Man, Calendar Girls and Society.
The 52-year-old, who is commonly referred to as Bollywood’s ‘hair designer’, is now planning to run his scissors through his native state Karnataka, where he will open outlets and an academy to train underprivileged boys and girls. Bhandary wishes to open up centres in Mangaluru too where he has started an all-woman’s salon in Moodbidri that caters to neighbouring towns and villages. As is evident from these ventures, despite Bhandary’s high-flying network of clients, he gives emphasis on developing the haircare industry to serve and employ people from humble backgrounds. And, the hair designer has been rewarded for his noble intent too. He won the ‘Wild and Wacky Hair’ contest organised by Salon International, where he carved the symbol of peace on a client’s head. This paved the way for a three-month course at the prestigious Vidal Sassoon Academy in England in 1998. Here, Bhandary got exposure and interacted with the world’s top-line hairdressers. He followed it up with an advanced diploma course at the Toni & Guy Education Academy in England in 2005 to sharpen his skills and get an update on the latest trends and styles.
Recalling his humble beginnings from the tiny village of Attur near Karkala in Karnataka, Bhandary says, “I imbibed the elementary skills of hair-dressing while growing up in the hills of Yelemadalu in Chikkamagaluru and Nitte in Mangaluru. I was just four when my father died and my mother looked after the family by taking up odd jobs. My childhood was filled with drudgery and hunger.” Then, one day, Shiva stepped out of his hometown to travel to Mumbai and master this craft. He spent long, gruelling hours in this city’s tiny salons as a helper and then as a barber. The city offered opportunities and Bhandary embraced them with honest, hard work.
“I studied till the fifth standard in Kannada medium. Since I was deprived of any formal academic education, I learned everything on my own. Every incident, good or bitter, has taught me a lot. Along with this, I tended cattle, worked as a cook, a farm hand and even at cycle repair shops. But, I never lost sight of my goals or ambitions,” says Bhandary.
In 1984, he landed up at a sports club in Qatar, where he picked up practical knowledge in hair-care for different nationalities. “The Egyptian manager of an international football team appreciated my work and used to call me a ‘hair-engineer’ and not a hairdresser. I had clients from Brazil, Sudan, Korea and Thailand. I learnt a lot about textures, feel and upkeep of different kinds of hair. Here, I was also exposed to people who preferred psychedelic and outlandish hair cuts. It triggered the idea of starting my own enterprise,” Bhandary explains. Once back in India, it took him another four years to start his first salon, Stylo at Thane, albeit with second-hand furnishings. Working long hours, his clientele grew and that encouraged him to start another salon in Mulund, his first salon with newer and better facilities.
Today, 26 years into the business, Bhandary still feels excited at the prospect of ‘turning a head around on its head’.