It is an unfortunate reality that some heroes remain undercover despite achieving so much in life. While one can blame media for not creating the right awareness, the majority of the millennials today also stay away from all the history that they should try to know.
In 2009, when AR Rahman, Gulzar and Resul Pookutty had won the academy award for Slumdog Millionaire, India started to celebrate the remarkable achievement with a misunderstanding that the music director was the first Indian artist to lift the Oscar.
Whereas in reality, Bhanu Athaiya was actually the first Indian ever to receive an Oscar back in 1983. She was nominated in the category of Best Costume Designer and her amazing work in Lord Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi was appreciated all around the world after that.
Born on 28th April 1929, Bhanu had the artistic flair in blood since childhood as her father Annasaheb was a painter in Kolhapur. Right after finishing her high school, she pursued a degree in fine arts at Mumbai’s Sir JJ School of Art and scored a gold medal for her exceptional skills.
Bhanu’s first job was of a freelance fashion illustrator, which made her work for many well-known women’s magazines in Mumbai including ‘Eve’s Weekly’. Fortunately for her, the editor of the magazine wanted to start her own boutique and after analyzing her talent, Bhanu was offered to design clothes and that was when her journey truly began.
The film fraternity, politicians and all of the elites were in love with Bhanu’s designs and cashing out on the rising popularity, she made her entry into Bollywood as a costume designer for Guru Dutt’s film C.I.D in 1956. It was just a matter of time as Dutt sahib later hired her as a permanent employee and with that, Bhanu was given the opportunity to cast her spell in great hits like Pyaasa, Chaudhvin Ka Chand, and Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam as well.
But the peak of her career came in 1983 after winning the Oscar along with her British counterpart John Mollo.
Till date, Bhanu is considered as the most iconic fashion designer in the history of Bollywood. Throughout her career, which lasted for five decades and 130 films, she has designed the costumes for every great actor in the Indian film Industry. She was also given two National Awards; one for Lekin (1991) and other Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India(2001).
The last time she worked as a costume designer was for Shahrukh Khan’s most critically acclaimed film till date, Swades.
To enlighten the world with the process of costumes and her success story, Bhanu released a book ‘The Art of Costume Design’ in 2010. It was her vision that helped Bollywood to shape the way how costumes are created for their films now. Besides that, she was also the leading fashionista in 1960- 70. Looking at her work would make you wish for going back in time again!