Bhanu Athaiya, the first Indian to win an Oscar Award, was a renowned costume designer in the Indian film industry. She won the 55th Academy Award in the “Best Costume Design” Category for her work in the film ‘Gandhi’.
Athaiya was born in Kolhapur, Maharashtra in 1929. She was trained in art and design from the J.J. School of Art in Mumbai. After completing her studies, she worked as a freelance designer for a few years. She also designed costumes for a few stage shows.
In 1951, she was approached by Bollywood director, Raj Kapoor, to design costumes for his film ‘Aawara’. This was her first major project in the film industry. She went on to design costumes for many other films, including ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Guide’, ‘Shree 420’, and ‘Mera Naam Joker’.
In 1982, she was approached by Richard Attenborough to design costumes for his film ‘Gandhi’. She accepted the offer and went on to design costumes for over 3000 actors in the film. Her work was highly appreciated and she won the Academy Award for “Best Costume Design” in 1983.
Athaiya was also an accomplished painter. Two of her works were included in the 1953 Progressive Artists Group Show in Mumbai. She also wrote a book on costume designing titled ‘The Art of Costume Design’.
Athaiya was awarded the Padma Shri in 1992 for her contribution to the Indian film industry. She passed away in October 2020 at the age of 91. She will always be remembered as the first Indian to win an Oscar Award.