Truly Iconic: Bollywood Hairdos Through the Ages

Bollywood glamour is in a class of its own. For people living in South Asia, everything to do with Bollywood is as relevant and familiar as a plate of home-cooked daal! You could sit for hours with your grandmother and talk about the golden days gone by, and she could probably advise you how to make a hairdo from the 50s or 60s better than any professional stylist could. It is always interesting to look at decades gone past and see how things have evolved, and for me as a hairdresser, I regard this evolution with a sense of wonder and so, have decided to put together some iconic hairstyles/cuts/accessories that were all the rage in their heyday.

Bollywood Bouffant


The Bouffant was the hairstyle of the 1960s which was catapulted to fame by Jacqueline Kennedy. Every actress sported this look, I’m pretty sure your grandma or mom did too. Sharmila Tagore, Saira Bano and Waheeda Rahman surely looked classiest of them all. It comes in the same class as a beehive, and our very own Madam Nurjehan carried the bouffant/beehive look her whole life so very elegantly.


Wigs galore


In many of the 70s movies, actresses often changed their hair looks completely in one movie. How was it achieved? Simple. They wore wigs of every shape, size and color – whether it came across looking wacky or tacky! If in one scene they boasted long tresses like Rapunzel, in the next they endorsed a Marilyn Monroe inspired wig. Dancing sensation Helen and Hema Malini are two actresses who stand out in memory of the dozen actresses who sported this look. The actresses literally went from platinum blonde, auburn, purple black to exaggerated buns with the plain philosophy that the weirder the hairstyle was, the better it looked.

Plaits & Braids


The southern beauty Sridevi tied her silky tresses in a classic, seriously-long mane tied in single plaits, frequently wrapped in mogras (flowers) for several movies. This hairstyle helped give her the appearance of any average Indian woman. Also, the long-haired divas like Rekha and Neetu Singh sported the innocent tidy pigtails in several of their movies. This helped in making them look young and boosting their appeal.

Sadhana Cut


Sadhana Shivdasani was an Indian actress who is known to have introduced the famous fringe hairstyle to women in this region. It even became to be known as the ‘Sadhana Cut’ and its legacy is still very much alive. There are very few people in the world who have lent their names to a haircut, and Sadhana happens to be one of them.

The Madhuri Dixit Hair


Madhuri is known for her thick, curly locks which she had no issues in flaunting. The bigger, the better. This same look was also adopted by other actresses in that era (such as Pooja Bhatt and Raveena Tandon). In her later movies (think Devdas), she went with a not-so-obvious middle parting and bun and with locks framing her face on either side. With that heart-winning smile, Madhuri holds the trademark for these two looks. Rekha, on the other hand, surely led the way in huge, curly hair and is in a different class with all due respect!

Perky Perms


There was a time when everyone wanted to get perms. Bollywood actresses took great pleasure in showing off their lusciously curly hair. This hairstyle was introduced in Bollywood by Pooja Bhatt and became the craze for every girl in the 90s (and perhaps a source of embarrassment a decade later!)

Poker Straight Hair


Karisma Kapoor’s severely straightened hair in the movie Raja Hindustani was so popular that the actress kept the same hairstyles for many of her other films. Another actress of the B-town beauty, Preity Zinta, in her famous hit Kal Ho Na Ho sported the same poker-straight strands. In effect, many women queued up to salons to get their hair straightened, too! South Asian women’s fascination with straight hair is not going away anytime soon, as far as I can see.

Eclectic Extensions


After those years of wearing awkward wigs, actresses and models nowadays simply clip on a set of hair extensions to flaunt a perfectly tousled, highlighted, or tinted hair look in seconds. It looks so natural that we cannot even tell the difference.

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Rachel Vera
Rachel is a beauty and lifestyle blogger from India with a passion for writing and all things beauty. Unabashedly partial to red lipsticks and big hair, in the drama that is life - Bollywood is her sanity!

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