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Bhanu Athaiya


Bhanu Athaiya – Indian Cinema’s most revered Costume Designer and First Indian to win an Oscar Award On April 11, 1983 renowned Indian Costume Designer Bhanu Athaiya made history when she won the Oscar for Best Costume Design (shared with John Mollo) for Sir Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. She became the first and only Indian to win an Oscar Award and held that distinction for 26 years until 2009 (when AR Rahman won Oscar for Best Original Score and Best Song, Resul Pookutty for Best Sound Mixing and Gulzar for Best Song). In December 2012, Athaiya at the age of 83 returned her Oscar Award to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for safe keeping. She felt that neither her family nor Indian Govt. will be able to take care of the trophy after her demise. She also feared it could meet the same fate as Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel medal which was stolen. The Academy gratefully accepted Athaiya’s offer to take it back, as it did from a few others. It’s now in a good place, where she feels it would be preserved with care, respect and dignity. Bhanu was born on 28 April 1929 as Bhanumati Annasaheb Rajopadhye in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. She graduated in Fine Arts with top honors from Sir J. J School of Art, Bombay. It was while working at Eve’s Weekly magazine as Fashion Illustrator that her sketches got noticed and highly appreciated. Her career as Costume Designer in films began in 1956 with Guru Dutt’s hit film ‘C.I.D’. She has worked in over 100 films, since 1956, with renowned filmmakers and has received numerous awards. She won the Oscar Award and the Govt. of India’s National Film Award, in 1991 for Lekin (Produced by Lata Mangeshkar; directed by Gulzar) and in 2002 for Laagan. Her book ‘The Art of Costume Design’ encapsulating her 50 years in films was released in 2010. She was married to Satyendra Athaiya, a poet and film lyricist. The marriage ended in separation, and she never remarried. The couple has one daughter, who resides in Kolkata. Athaiya resides in Mumbai and continues to work out of her studio. About her profession, Athaiya says “Costume Design is not same as Fashion Design where the clothes have to be unique and beautiful. Costume Design is the art of creating a character and depends on the film’s story”.