Marishetty Kumar left Belakawadi village in the Mandya district of Karnataka and moved to Bengaluru. While he was employed in the film industry which paid well enough to sustain his family, Kumar chose to follow his heart. He left the industry to meticulously hand-weave wigs for cancer patients and help them regain their self-esteem. “It doesn’t pay much, but the satisfaction I get from this job is immense,” Kumar told BBC.
In a report by The New Indian Express, inside a narrow lane in one of Bangalore’s many sprawling suburbs is a modest 8’ by 14’ shop, which offers confidence, beauty and hope for many. It is here that Kumar fashions wigs in different styles and sizes. It’s been 10 years since Kumar started this venture.
Recalling his days in the village, Kumar said, “I was tending cattle near Shivanadamudra Falls when a film crew came there to shoot. After the shoot was over, the chief make-up artist, Shivaji, asked me whether I would be interested in making wigs for actors. Having only studied till the seventh standard, I jumped at the idea of learning a new skill and accompanied him to Chennai, where for four years I learnt the art of wig making. After that, I returned to Bangalore to start my own venture.” After his return, Kumar got busy in the movie industry.
Then one day, everything changed. “Once a doctor landed in the studio to attend an emergency. After learning what I did, he suggested I put my skill to a better use. He introduced me to doctors connected with cancer hospitals, many of whose patients despaired over hair loss due to chemotherapy. I took his advice and left films,” said Kumar.
He buys natural hair from the town of Tirupati. He is helped in his work by his wife, Lalitha Marishetty. “My day starts at 7.30am. Before I start, I visualise what kind of wig will suit the customer and try to give it as natural a look as possible,” said Kumar. One of his customers, Kamala (name changed), attests to this. “When being treated for breast cancer, I lost 90 per cent of my hair and was so dejected with everything until Kumar’s perfect looking wig saved me. I have still kept the wig—a cherished souvenir of those anxiety-ridden days,” she said.
So far, the couple has made more than 20,000 wigs for cancer patients. Even though Kumar does not eke out huge profits, he insists that the contended faces of his customers are rewarding enough.