Bhanu Athaiya, India’s First Oscar Winner for ‘Gandhi,’ Dies at 91

Mumtaz The dress-saree in Brahmachari designed by Bhanu Athaiya ji set a fashion trend

Mumtaz in Brahmachari

She was apprehensive of the award's security in India, considering the theft of Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize medal from Shantiniketan some years previously.

"You can well imagine the kind of study I undertook to create the look", she said. It was just flawless and thanks to her inventive creativity, I could do that energetic song and the costume went on to set a fashion trend.

At the 55th Academy Awards, Athaiya claimed the award for Best Costume Design (alongside her co-designer John Mollo), one of eight Oscars won by the movie that night.

Famous costume designer Bhanu Athaiya, who won Oscar for her work for Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi", is no more.

Athaiya said Lord Attenborough had offered her the job as costume designer for the film within 15 minutes of her audition in 1982.

She shared an Oscar for her work on a biopic about Mahatma Gandhi in 1983.

Bhanu Athaiya's body of work as a costume designer also includes films such as Swades, Prem, 1942: A Love Story, Agneepath, Karz, Mr. Natwarlal, Jaani Dushman among others. She will always be an inspiration to all costume designers n stylists.

Born in 1929 in Kolhapur, in Maharashtra state, Athaiya began designing movie costumes in the 1950s, working on a series of productions with Guru Dutt, one of the era's most celebrated directors. Athaiya came to Mumbai in 1945 and joined the Sir JJ School of Art.

But the effort was worthwhile. "We covered a huge span of 50 years of his life".

In her acceptance speech for the Oscar in 1983, Athaiya thanked Lord Attenborough "for focusing world attention on India".

In 2012, she returned the Oscar to the Academy for safe keeping. "Many filmmakers overseas have also handed over their trophies because their families may not be able to take care of it".

Sunil Seth, chairman of the Fashion Design Council India said she has been a "torchbearer of design", in a statement shared with CNN. Actress Kasturi Shankar meanwhile described Athaiya as a "legendary costume designer and pathbreaking woman". She took the costume industry, especially of India, to various places and to the Oscars. She is also a two-time National Award victor for costume designing in "Lekin" (1991) and "Lagaan" (2001). Our industry has lost of one the greats.

Gandhi received many nominations at the BAFTA and for the Oscars.

Aniruddha Guha, an Indian screenwriter, tweeted that he was in awe of Athaiya's achievements, writing: "An absolute legend".

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