Published May 04, 2009In West Bengal, a young girl named Gita prepares to donate her hair to the temple. Her parents hope that the gods reward Gita with an education. Meanwhile, in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, celebrity journalist Sangeeta gathers gossip about Bollywood stars at Dilshad's salon, where she and other showbiz bigwigs get their hair extensions done. Many miles away in Bangalore, smooth talking entrepreneur Mayoor negotiates a shipment of Indian hair to his buyer, Thomas, who glides across the Italian countryside in a helicopter bearing his company's name: Great Lengths.
This is the network built upon long, dark strands of Indian hair that sell for $100,000 U.S. per 400 kg — hair that flows from sacred temples to Hollywood mansions such as Cameron Diaz's. The two Italian directors do a fine yet understated job of making the connections in this complex, international industry.
Peasants such as Gita have no idea what happens to the hair they bequeath to the gods. The army of women at Mayoor's factory hand weave extensions from loose hair as their boss strikes deals and signs contracts. Hello! Magazine journalist Sangeeta cares only about the length of her extensions, which is the preferred style among Indian women, and how the hair looks on the models at her next fashion show.
Implicit in the film is the contrast between country and city, poor and wealthy. These disparities have been growing in India as it matures into an economic superpower and its dynamic population adopts Western notions of beauty.
If there is a weakness to this film it's that it lacks a central event, like a competition or a crisis, to weave all its disparate threads together. Hair India drifts along and loses momentum towards the end. That said, this documentary opens the door to a fascinating aspect of life in India. (B&B)