Gandhi’s Oscar winning Indian costume designer Bhanu Athaiya dies

Bhanu Athaiya won an Oscar for her work in the 1983 epic film 'Gandhi'.
Bhanu Athaiya won an Oscar for her work in the 1983 epic film 'Gandhi'.

BHANU ATHAIYA, who won India’s first Oscar for costume designing in the 1983 epic film Gandhi, died on Thursday (15) aged 91 after prolonged illness, her daughter said.

“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,” her daughter Radhika Gupta said.

The last rites took place in Mumbai.

Athaiya began her career as a costume designer in Hindi cinema with Guru Dutt’s 1956 superhit C.I.D. and worked in more than 100 films.

She won the Academy Award along with John Mollo for Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley in the titular role.

“It’s too good to believe. Thank you Academy and thank you Sir Richard Attenborough for focusing world attention on India,” Athaiya had said in her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.

In 2012, Athaiya returned her Oscar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for safe keeping.

Her work included films such as Aamrapaali (actress Vyjayanthimala); Guide (Waheeda Rehman) and Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Zeenat Aman).

In a career spanning more than five decades, Athaiya won two National Awards in India – for Gulzar’s mystery drama Lekin (1990) and the period film Lagaan directed by Ashutosh Gowariker (2001).

“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,” she said at the launch of her book The Art of Costume Design.