Zeenat, I and the shifty shades of grey


It’s not hair that maketh Zeenat Aman. It’s Zeenat who maketh the hair.

A look at me, and you would know that any resemblance between us is purely coincidental, should there be such coincidences outside the film world. But, one tries. And, you can say I have been — trying, that is, to find my inner Zeenat in my greying hair. The 71-year-old has been reborn as a star since, and my hunt continues.

Leave aside freedom from salon sessions where you have to make the difficult choice between being an “auburn hair” kind of girl or an “auburn-tinged-with-maroon” one, this road is a lonely furrow. Your compatriots may stand on the sidelines and applaud your feeble shot at “being comfortable in your own hair”, but few are joining you in the middle. Whoever said age is just a number doesn’t have 50 creeping up on them. And nothing spells age louder than those greys rising at the temples.

I might be tempted to point out that looking perpetually young is a mission impossible for even Tom Cruise, as evident in his latest MI, that age shows up one way or the other, in aching joints and creeping wrinkles, in niggling pains and the desire for the comfort of one’s own bed. But none of that matters really; all the other person has to do is notice the greys sitting on your head.

If Zeenat is an “exception”, she is for a reason, which has nothing to do with her hair — a sex symbol of the 70s who was way ahead of her times, she finds herself at the right time now on the right platform, which is always on the lookout for Insta here, Insta gone. For a more likely end to my hairy tales, I perhaps should have looked at Waheeda Rehman, who sported a grey mop long before it became a “thing”, and did not have photographers in hot pursuit over that. Or at Jaya Bachchan, whose greys have never made news unlike her husband’s minutest hirsute changes, including some strategically displayed strands of white.

At the other end of this age spectrum is Rekha. She too made news recently, for appearing on Vogue Arabia cover at the ripe age of 68. Here is an actress whose entire persona is built around the myth of eternal youth, of a timeless beauty hidden away, pining for love in her lonely castle. She emerges only to reinforce the story, shimmering all over in gold, perfect from the tip of her hair, to her red lips, to the tips of her painted toes.

During one of those moments where I feel exhausted just looking at the effort of it all, I imagine what the real Rekha might look like. What deal with the Devil has she made to keep this picture of her alive? But, lest I start down a self-congratulatory road where I and only I am the appreciative audience, the fact is that the real Rekha probably still looks better than the ordinary us.

So, if any fellow grey heads are reading this, who know by now that there are greys and then there are greys, that old is mostly old and seldom gold, and that the bitter truth of DDLJ is that Shah Rukh Khan is still romancing Deepika Padukone while Kajol is playing a mother to teens, reach out. Zeenat excluded. Unless she throws in a free hair consultation.

National Editor Shalini Langer curates the fortnightly ‘She Said’ column


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