Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya, a colossus of costume design who became India’s first Oscar winner for her work in Richard Attenborough’s, Gandhi (1982), and whose chic couture in blockbusters like Waqt (1965) blazed fashion trends, passed away in Mumbai on Thursday. She was 91.
Her daughter Radhika Gupta told TOI on phone that Athayiya died in her sleep. “In 2012, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She had been bedridden since 2016 when her right side got paralysed,” she said. She was cremated at Chandanwadi in south Mumbai.
In the foreword to her autobiography, The Art of Costume Design (2010), Attenborough described her as “the revered doyenne of costume designers.” It took me “17 long years to set up Gandhi, my dream film” and just 15 minutes to make up my mind that Bhanu Athaiya was the right person (for the job),” he wrote.
The Kolhapur-born costume designer’s career, spanning 56 years and over 100 films, reads like a catalogue of Bollywood’s best and biggest: Shri 420, Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Sangam, Guide, Waqt, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Nikaah, Lagaan.
“According to Yashji (Yash Chopra), girls in Delhi bought movie tickets for their tailors so that could see the designs and replicate them,” wrote Athaiya, was married to film lyricist Satyendra (Anhonee, Naubahar, Radha Krishna), who passed away in 2004.