Neglected No Extra: Bhanu Athaiya, Who Gained India Its First Oscar

2021-04-23 00:20:30

This text is a part of Neglected, a sequence of obituaries about exceptional individuals whose deaths, starting in 1851, went unreported in The Occasions.

In 1983, when Bhanu Athaiya received an Oscar for costume design for her work on “Gandhi,” not everybody in Hollywood was thrilled.

“For what? Wrinkled sheets, burlap sacks and loincloths?” the movie critic and writer Rex Reed wrote.

To not point out Military uniforms.

“Gandhi” — a three-hour saga masking greater than half a century of politics, protest and purposeful nonviolence within the lifetime of Mahatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) — was something however a style present.

Some Indian moviegoers complained that everybody appeared so peculiar, from the actors — amongst them John Gielgud, Martin Sheen and the younger Candice Bergen (enjoying the American photographer Margaret Bourke-White) — to the hundreds of extras dressed for crowd scenes.

However Athaiya (pronounced ah-THIGH-yah) knew the worth of her work.

“Richard Attenborough was making a fancy movie and wanted somebody who knew India inside out,” Athaiya instructed Jap Eye, a British weekly newspaper, in an interview revealed final yr. “A lot needed to be contributed, and I used to be prepared for it.”

“Gandhi” received eight Oscars, together with greatest image, actor and director. And when the costume design award went to Athaiya — sharing the dignity with the British designer John Mollo — she turned the primary Oscar winner in historical past from India.

Bhanumati Annasaheb Rajopadhye was born on April 28, 1929, in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, often known as a metropolis of the humanities, in British India. She was the third of seven youngsters of Annasaheb Rajopadhye, a painter and photographer from a rich household, and Shantabai Rajopadhye. Her father died in 1940.

After finishing her formal training at 17, Bhanu moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) and stayed with a lady whose mom occurred to work at Eve’s Weekly, a well-liked journal.

“They noticed my sketches and will inform my hand was good,” Athaiya instructed Jap Eye, including that she “had been sketching from a really younger age.”

Her work as {a magazine} illustrator led to a job at a boutique, the place she started creating her personal designs, though she had by no means attended style college. That introduced her to the eye of India’s film {industry}.

“High stars began approaching me on their very own and recommending me to filmmakers,” she instructed The Indian Specific in an interview revealed final yr. In a separate interview, she summed up her profession: “I by no means needed to go knocking on doorways.”

She made her film-industry debut in Raj Khosla’s “C.I.D.” (1956), a black-and-white homicide drama (with musical numbers, in fact), about midway via the golden age of Bollywood. She went on to design costumes for greater than 100 motion pictures over nearly six a long time.

They included a few of the better of Hindi movie, like Guru Dutt’s “Pyaasa” (1957), a couple of struggling poet and the prostitute who believes in him; Vijay Anand’s “Information” (1965), about an unhappily married lady and a spiritually looking for former tour information; Ashutosh Gowariker’s “Lagaan: As soon as Upon a Time in India” (2001), which mixed cricket uniforms, army uniforms and ladies’s fashions of late Victorian England; and the identical director’s “Swades” (2004), a couple of modern-day scientist returning to his childhood village.

She thought-about herself a director’s designer. She was disdainful of stars who tried to dictate costume choices and of designers who put their very own fame above a movie’s high quality.

Athaiya received specific reward for her designs for the actress Sridevi, angelically wearing white in Yash Chopra’s “Chandni” (1989); Zeenat Aman as a bodily and psychically scarred spouse in “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” (1978); Vyjayanthimala within the fantasy “Amrapali” (1966); Mumtaz, doing the twist in fancy-party scenes in “Brahmachari” (1968); and Waheeda Rehman, one of many designer’s favourite actresses, in “Information.”

She mentioned she liked her film profession as a result of it allowed her to create designs for each interval footage and modern tales.

“And it’s got a timeless life,” she instructed Jap Eye, “whereas style will come and go.”

She married Satyendra Athaiya, a lyricist and poet, within the Nineteen Fifties. (She modified her billing from Bhanumati to Mrs. Bhanu Athaiya in 1959.) In accordance with The Occasions of India, he died in 2004.

India can now declare eight Academy Awards, together with two for the 2008 movie “Slumdog Millionaire” (rating and sound mixing), an honorary Oscar in 1992 for the director Satyajit Ray and several other technical awards.

In 2012, after she realized she had a mind tumor, Athaiya returned her Oscar statuette to the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles for safekeeping after her demise.

She died on Oct. 15, 2020, in Mumbai. She was 91.

Her final movie was “Nagrik” (2015), a thriller about casually dressed criminals. She was the writer of “The Artwork of Costume Design” (2010).

The Oscar was not Athaiya’s solely main prize. She received India’s Nationwide Award for Costume Design twice, for “Lekin…” (1991) and for “Lagaan” a decade later, and the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Working in movie, Athaiya mentioned in an interview with The Indian Specific, “turned a approach to specific myself and let my creativeness soar.”

“It was so fulfilling that I didn’t really feel the necessity to do the rest.”

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