India’s first Oscar-winning costume designer Bhanu Athaiya died at her home on 15th October after prolonged illness. She was 91 years old. Athaiya, who won an Oscar for her work in the 1983 film ‘Gandhi’, died, her daughter Radhika Gupta said. She has left behind a huge legacy of Indian costume design.
The last rite was performed at the Chandanwadi crematorium in South Mumbai. Bhanu Athaiya’s daughter Radhika Gupta told in a media interview that her mother died this morning. Eight years ago a tumor was detected in her brain. For the last three years, she was put to bed because one side (of her body) was paralyzed.
Athaiya Bhanu was born in Kolhapur, she started her career in Hindi cinema with costume designer in Guru Dutt’s 1956 superhit film ‘CID’.
Athaiya contributed to more than 100 films in her long career of five decades. She also received national awards for Gulzar’s film ‘Lekin’ (1990) and Ashutosh Gowirkar’s film ‘Lagaan’ (2001).
In 1983, Bhanu Athaiya received the Best Costume Designer Award at the Oscar for director Richard Attenborough’s film ‘Gandhi’. She last worked for Aamir Khan’s film ‘Lagaan’ and Shah Rukh Khan’s film ‘Swades’.
In 2012, Bhanu Athaiya expressed her desire to return the Oscar award. She returned it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. As she wanted the Oscar trophy to be kept in a safe place after her departure.
In an interview with the BBC, Bhanu Athaiya had said, “I don’t have regrets for giving the award back. I have enjoyed the award for so many years, Many Oscar winners in the past have returned their Oscars for safe keeping. It is a tradition with the Academy.”
She had said, “I often go to the Oscars office, I see that many people have placed their trophies there. American costume designer Edith Head also had eight of her Oscar trophies placed at the Oscars office before she died.”
Recalling the evening of the Oscars ceremony, Bhanu Athaiya said, “All the fellow nominees told her that she is the frontrunner for the best costume design award.”
“The other designers sitting at the 1983 Oscars ceremony were also saying that I would get the award only. I asked how can you say this with so much confidence? On that question, they responded to me that the scope of your film was so big that we can’t compete with that.”
While receiving the award, I calmly went to the stage and I thanked Sir Richard Attenborough that he drew the attention of the world to India and I thanked the Academy.”
Bhanu was also a gold medalist in painting and this was the reason that Richard Attenborough chose her for his film.
The veteran who defined the beauty of Hindi cinema through her inventive work, created some of Bollywood’s best remembered looks, including Vyjayantihmala in “Aamrapaali”, Waheeda Rehman in “Guide” and Zeenat Aman in “Satyam Shivam Sundaram.”
In an Interview in 2010,Bhanu Athaiya had said, “Things did not change much after the Oscar win, the costume department continued to be a neglected part of the Indian film industry.”
In 2010, at the launch of her book “ The Art Of Costume Design” published by Harper Collins, She had said, “Costumes have a huge role in making a film look real and believable, but Indian filmmakers have never given due importance to it and nowadays the trend is to just go shopping abroad and put things together. In my opinion that is not the correct thing to do.”