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41 years of rocking business

Fariyal Murtazai shines bright in the legacy of the city's first beauty salon and tells SANGEETHA DEVI DUNDOO that beauty is all about personalised service.

PHOTOS: K. RAMESH BABU

IN THE FAMILY Fariyal Murtazai and Laila

She has said this when she was 17 and at the risk of sounding repetitive, Fariyal Murtazai says it again: "The city has grown tremendously, but we haven't grown much in terms of beauty sense. We are still reluctant to experiment."

Much before the mushrooming of beauty salons in the city, Fariyal had the last word in the beauty business. Miracle, founded by her mother 41 years ago in 1967, was the city's first salon. "Back then, my mom had to convince a client for an hour to get her eyebrows done. Most Hyderabadis were new to the concept of facials, pedicures and manicures," laughs Fariyal.

Fariyal's staff is busy at work in her Banjara Hills salon as Fariyal recollects, "We are Iranians. My mother moved to India after marriage and ever since, we have been in Hyderabad. My mom felt that Hyderabad lacked a beauty salon and started Miracle as a one-room centre at our home. She made her own products, we still follow her formula today. As the clientele grew, she brought down a few Chinese hair dressers from Kolkata and started the salon at Fateh Maidan." Fariyal took to the business when she was 14. "I studied at St Ann's till X standard and wasn't interested in studying further. My mother gave me an ultimatum and asked me to either study or get into the business and help her. I chose the latter. People started liking my work and some even insisted that they wanted their hair cut only by me, then I thought I had it in me to take my mom's work further. Now, at 42, I am glad with what I've done. And my daughter Laila has joined me."

Laila and Fariyal juggle their appointments to meet clients at their three centres - Fateh Maidan, Secunderabad and Banjara Hills. "Beauty is serious business. You cannot ask someone to choose a hairstyle from a brochure and go chop chop. You need to know where your client is coming from - his or her work profile, family background and lifestyle. The hairstyle you give them has to suit all of these." She doesn't buy the idea of following the trend of celebrity hair stylists opening outlets across the country. "I've been approached several times to give out franchisees to other places in AP. Salons are about giving personalised services. I don't want to open too many centres where either I or Laila may not be able to go and look over personally."

Fariyal loves to dress up the stars. "While working for films, you don't deal with the person but the character; this gives you scope to experiment," she says. Prabhas, Ileana, Ram, Siddharth and Charmme are some of the actors who are happy to be subjected to Fariyal's expert scissors. Here too there are a few restrictions, she grumbles. "For young actors, we suggest a funky hairstyle with spikes minus the moustache. But the actors are reluctant because they are told by the directors and producers that the masses will not like their heroes to be seen without the moustache. And you can't experiment with colours too. Bollywood has broken free from restrictions. For girls, the hottest hairstyle is the short bob. People immediately associate this with Bipasha's bob. Fashion in India starts from films and film stars. Since Telugu film stars don't experiment much, people here don't have a reference point."

She shreds the myth that the Banjara Hills clientele is higher on the style quotient. And she adds, "People in Banjara Hills may claim that they don't watch Telugu films but they watch the films more than anyone else and ape the film stars. For instance, a client of mine spotted actress Ramya Krishna at my salon once and asked me who she was. She then said she didn't know much about Telugu actresses. But after a few minutes she went up to Ramya and told her how good she was in a film with Nagarjuna and even took her autograph. That's the Banjara Hills crowd for you!"

Regular trips to London and Singapore are part of Fariyal and Laila's routines twice a year to update themselves on the latest hairstyles and colours. "There's always the need to Indianise what you learn at Tony and Guy and other places. The Indian skin tone, hair texture and social context are different."

Fariyal is glad that the Miracle legacy will be looked after by Laila, who took to the salon in her teens. "I married very young and had Laila when I was 17. I was divorced at 18. Ever since, it's been me and her. We've been happy," she says.

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