Bhanu Athaiya: The Oscar Lady

Bhanu Athaiya is an Indian costume designer and painter. She is mostly known for her contributions to the fields of costume design and painting. She is the only person who has been elected as a member of the Bombay Artists Group and the first Indian to win an Academy Award. She is known for her successful career as an artist with the most successful artists and celebrities like M.F. Husain, F. N. Souza, and Vasudeo S. Gaitonde.

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She was born into a brahmin family on 28 April 1929 at Kolhapur estate in British India and died on 15 October 2020, in Mumbai. Out of total seven siblings, she was the third one. Her father is Anna Saheb and her mother is Shantabai Rajopadhye. Her father is an inborn artist who has never been trained by anyone and has not even gone to art school for this sort of training. He is a great painter and an artist who has also taken part as a photographer in many films by Mr. Babu Rao. She lost her father when she was just 11 years old.

She completed all her education at the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai, where she won the Usha Deshmukh Gold Medal of Honor in 1951 for her artwork “Lady in repose.”

Her Career is an Inspiration

After taking all the skill sessions in the fields of art and photography, she started her career as a normal artist. She was still studying at the JJ school of arts when she was ready to get into an artistic career. After that, she became a member of the progressive artist’s group, and since then she has merged with them and started exhibiting with them. She has even shown her interest in the field of fashion by working as a freelance fashion writer for some of the famous fashion magazines like “Eves Weekly” and “Fashion Weekly”.

Those were the days when the editor of her freelance fashion magazine was planning to open a boutique. He asked Bhanu to design some sort of dress. She took it as an interesting task and did it with full ease. That was the beginning of her triumph. She discovered the world’s greatest designer in her. Having had some sweet success on that path, she decided to shift her career towards films. She started designing clothes for movies. She is most famous for her clothes in the films of Guru Datt. Her first film with him is C.I.D. From then on, she became a part of the team of Gurudatt.

Her debut in the field of cinema is with C.I.D. After that, she became well-known in the audience thanks to the GuruDatt films. She is best known for her work in movies like Pyaasa, Chaudhvin Ka Chand, and Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam. She has received many prestigious awards during her career. Her most notable honors include an Academy Award for Best Costume Design for her work on Gandhi. She is the first Indian to win the Academy Award. She has already won two national film awards in the years 1991 and 2002.

In her career, she has worked with most of the famous celebrities and talented people in the country. Her most lovable directors are Guru Datt, Yash Chopra, B. R. Chopra, Raj Kapoor, Vijay Anand, Raj Khosla, and many others.


In the year 2010, she released a book called “The Art of Costume Design”. This was published by Harper Collins. The most notable thing here is a copy of this book, presented to the Dalai Lama in the year 2013.

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Her Personal Life

She married a guy who is most famous for his lyrics and poems. He was Satyendra Athaiya in the late 1950s. As a result, to convey her love for her soulmate, she changed her name from Bhanumathi to Bhanu Athaiya. This person died in the year 2004. She, too, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. This has led her to suffer from paralysis on one side of her body. This led her to fall into bed for the next three years. With all this illness, she left the world on October 15, 2015. She has almost lived for 91 years.


She bagged the Oscar Award for her costume designs for the film “Gandhi”. It was not her only award, but rather she also received many such awards, such as the 55th Academy Award in the best costume design category.


Bhanu Athaiya is the most famous Indian costume designer who has led India into the path of Oscar with his skills in the field of fashion design. She was born in Maharastra to a middle-class brahmin family. She has led India in the direction of pride and honor with her contribution. Her most famous achievements are the Usha Deshmukh gold medal in the year 1951 for her work titled “Lady in repose”, the Academy Award for her costumes for the film “Gandhi” in the year 1983, the National Film Award for her costumes for the film Lekin, the National Film Award for the costume design of Lagaan in the year 2002, and the most prestigious Filmfare Lifetime Achievement award in the year 2009. More than this, she has reached into each and every home in the country with her designs and all. Phir Bhi, Swades, Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, Dhyaas Parva, Dr. Bhabhasaheb Ambedkar, and many other films are among her most well-known works.

Updated on: 13-Oct-2022


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