The first Oscar winner from India, costume designer Bhanu Athaiya passed away on Thursday, 15 October in Mumbai. She was 91 years old. Athaiya’s daughter Radhika Gupta informed PTI, “She passed away early this morning. Eight years ago, she was diagnosed with a tumour in her brain. For the last three years, she was bedridden because one side (of her body) was paralysed.” The last rites took place at the Chandanwadi crematorium in South Mumbai.
India’s first Oscar winner : Bhanu Athaiya
Bhanu Athaiya won the Best Costume Design Oscar for her contribution in the 1982 acclaimed film Gandhi. She moulded the characters in the Richard Attenborough directorial in an authentic Indian look. In her memoir ‘The Art Of Costume Design’, Athaiya stated surprisingly how she was the only Indian among the heads of department on the film.
A lifetime of brilliance
Athaiya also contributed to costume designing for Bollywood movies like C.I.D, Pyaasa, Kagaz Ke Phool, Waqt, Arzoo, Amrapali, Suraj, Anita, Milan, Raat Aur Din, and Shikar. Her most famous works find place in Guide, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Teesri Manzil, Mera Saaya, Inteqam,and Abhinetri. Other works include Johny Mera Naam, Geeta Mera Naam, Karz, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Razia Sultan, Nikaah, Agneepath (1990), Ajooba and 1942 – A Love Story among others. Some of her famed designs include Vyjayantihmala in Aamrapaali, Waheeda Rehman in Guide and Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
“Nargis loved my designs”
Bhanu Athaiya started her humble journey from Kolhapur. She was born on April 28, 1929. Surprisingly, she never attended any fashion school. When Athaiya started to work in films, she felt ‘fulfilled’. In an interview with The Indian Express, she stated, “For me, it (working for cinema) became a way to express myself and let my imagination soar. It was so fulfilling that I did not feel the need to do anything else, like opening a boutique. Top stars started approaching me on their own and recommending me to filmmakers. Nargis loved my designs.”
International presence of Bhanu Athaiya
Athaiya’s list of international films also includes Conrad Rook’s daring Siddhartha and Krishna Shah’s Indo-American production Shalimar. There was also the German short film The Cloud Door. She was the first Indian to receive the Oscar award. However in 2012, Banu Athaiya returned her Oscar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for safe-keeping.