India’s first Academy Award winner Bhanu Athaiya passes away

India’s first Oscar winner and a titan of costume design, Bhanu Athaiya died at the age of 91 at her home in Mumbai on October 15, 2020. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012 and the illness had her bedridden since 2016, with her right side paralyzed.  Her daughter informed that Bhanu Athaiya died peacefully in her sleep. Athaiya was cremated at Chandanwadi crematorium in South Mumbai following her demise. 

The gifted costume designer won an Oscar for Best Costume Design in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982). In 2012, she returned her Oscar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for safekeeping. 

As Bollywood mourns her demise, Aamir Khan tweeted in remembrance of the legendary costumed designer, “Bhanuji was one of those film people who beautifully combined accurate research and cinematic flair to bring to life the director’s vision. You will be missed Bhanuji. My heartfelt condolences to the family.”

A still from Gandhi, 1982.

Like an echo from the past, Richard Attenborough also mentioned how he knew Bhanu Athaiya was the right person to bring his vision for Gandhi to life, in his foreword to her autobiography, The Art of Costume Design. He wrote, “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).”

A Kolhapur native, her career spanned over a 100 movies in 56 years with films including Waqt, Lagaan, and Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulaam

Her contribution to the art of costume design will always be exigent and remembered. 

Filmfare Middle East offers our deepest condolences to Bhanu Athaiya’s friends and family. 


(Contributed by Sakshi Prabhu)


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