Without being a trend-spotter in these things, you can easily predict that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s gunslinger moustache is going to be the style statement of the season. His flared sideburns and the moustache that, quite appropriately, looks like a bird with its wings spread and ready to soar in the air, is apparently quite in demand in salons across the country. His curvy, groovy moustache is now an insignia, like Nike’s swoosh symbol, in its own right.
But despite Ramprasad Sharma famously declaring in Gol Maal, “moustache is the mirror of human soul and mind”, the north of India is not exactly known for widespread sporting of ‘staches. To be sure, there are folks in places like Rajasthan who are wont to grow facial hair with the care and conviction of an organic farmer cultivating tomatoes, but the moustache’s soul truly belongs to South India where luxuriant and luscious ‘staches are always popular.
Here are five Indians who are popular for their moustaches:
Brigand Veerappan: A hair-raiser, both literally and figuratively. Part of the menace that sandalwood smuggler enjoys in popular imagination in the country stems from his larger-than-life whiskers, bristly and more bushy than the thickets of Sathyamangalam forests that he operated from. The untamed wilds of his ‘stache on his gaunt face telegraphed the message, “I am a bad man, don’t mess with me.” It so happened that the self-appointed emissary who regularly carried messages from him, “Nakkheeran” Gopal, was also a huge moustache-sporter. In that sense they both were kindred spirits of flamboyant frizzies.
Kamal Haasan: The protean-faced Kamal Haasan is one person who always experiments with his films as well as his hairstyle and moustaches. For long, Kamal was reluctant to remove his moustache, but after Nayagan (for which he went clean-shaven after many years), he tried several styles with his moustache. For Thevar Magan, he had a moustache that supposedly spoke of the valour of the community he portrayed in that movie. That moustache in itself was like a sickle — sharp-edged and long, — that the community people were prone to unleash. In Virumandi, too, Kamal had a grand fur, a kind of long-lost twin of Abhinandan’s mutton chop beard. For Panchatantram, Kamal opted for a stylized French beard, while for Sathya he went in for a rugged beard and rustic ‘stache. Recently, after he launched his political party, he did go around in an avuncular walrus moustache oozing kind machismo all through.
Ranveer Singh: Among the modern-day Bollywood stars, Ranveer is the only one who can pull off moustachioed insouciance with ease and elegance. Aamir Khan can wear his twirled thatch with assurance. Anil Kapoor is an one-man ‘hairforce’. Jackie Shroff can cut a sizzling figure in his chiseled ‘stache. But none of them has Ranveer’s zing combined with his vigorous vibrancy. His imperial style goes well with his energy and enterprise. Ranveer’s facial hairstyle spells his innate vibrancy and hipster coolness. Truly His Hairness.
Ravindra Jadeja/Shikhar Dhawan: This Indian cricket team is filled with bearded brilliance. Almost all of them, save for the original man with the mane, Mahi, are on fleek when it comes to beards and ‘staches. Dhoni no longer seems to care to tend to his salt and pepper, which in itself adds to his style. Kohli’s Punjabiness comes through his classily trimmed facial hair. But the trend started with the impish Shikhar Dhawan and the irrepressible Ravindra Jadeja. They both had a natural feel for pointy and piercing whiskers. As it happens, the one more prone to be clean-shaven in this Indian team is the South Indian Ravichandran Ashwin.
Mahatma Gandhi: Did he actually have a moustache? Well, he did. During his barrister days in South Africa, the ‘stache was was thick and trendy. But by the time he came back to India, much like the man, the moustache was mellowed and mindfully low-key, conveying, in a sense, ahimsa. The Mahatma’s style was never in-your-face, and the moustache hung in there like an afterthought, as if someone affixed it to add more gravitas to his mien.
From the Mahatma, moustached men have always been a cut above the rest.
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