Bhanu Athaiya: In Memoriam 

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The Oscar-winning costume designer Bhanu Athaiya handed away yesterday on the age of 91. When she bagged the Academy Award for Greatest Costume Design for Gandhi (1982), Athaiya, whereas accepting the statuette on the ceremony in 1983, stated “It’s too good to consider. Thanks, Academy and thanks, Sir Richard Attenborough, for focusing world consideration on India.”  

Her nearly five-decade-long profession within the motion pictures has been well-chronicled and impressed a number of abilities who got here later. The long-lasting designer outfitted a number of actors in an extended record of films that embody names like C.I.D (1956), Waqt and Information (1965), Teesri Manzil and Amrapali (1966), Brahmachari (1968), Lekin and Henna (1991), 1942: A Love Story (1994), Lagaan (2001), and Swades (2004). 

She was born Bhanumati Annasaheb Rajopadhye in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Her father was a painter and handed away when she was 9 years outdated, and Athaiya herself studied artwork, happening to grow to be a gold medallist on the Sir JJ Faculty of Artwork. A member of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), she had been its solely lady affiliate and contributed three artworks to the Progressive Artists’ Group exhibition on the Bombay Artwork Society’s salon on Rampart Row, Mumbai, in 1953.  

Whereas nonetheless an artwork scholar, she had begun to precise her creativity by means of style illustrations. And shortly, her ardour for costume design catapulted her into the world of cinema. The artwork world’s loss was the movie business’s achieve. And the remaining, as they are saying, is historical past….  

Producer and Director  

I labored with Bhanu on Gandhi [he was one of the producers]. There was an depth about her. She beloved her occupation and had the eagerness that’s essential to excel in what you do. Although a really quiet individual, she was very pleasant and everybody preferred her. She was a really dignified woman. She noticed success at an early age with all the nice film-makers. For Gandhi, we had taken the entire conference corridor of the lodge the place the crew was put up for the shoot for our costumes, and he or she would spend a number of time there with the tailors. She did her job very professionally.  

Dr Zehra Jumabhoy
Artwork Historian and Curator 

I first got here throughout Bhanu Athaiya’s work after I was researching the Progressive Artists’ Group for the present that I co-curated on the Asia Society and Museum in New York in 2018 – The Progressive Revolution: Fashionable Artwork for a New India. There have been many “details” in regards to the Progressives that I wished to unpack and take a look at the reality of: I wished to establish issues like when their first present was held, after they have been based and analyse the accusation that has typically been levelled on the PAG: that they problematically symbolised an “all-male”, macho Modernism. 

I don’t suppose there’s such a factor as a “feminine sensibility” – however she was actually dynamic and impartial. She left the PAG and gave up portray as a result of she wished to be financially impartial, and so she went into style and eventually costume design for the films. Hearsay has it that each VS Gaitonde [one of her mentors at the Sir JJ School of Art] and Ok. H. Ara [a founding member of the PAG] have been outraged at her selection, as they felt she had nice potential as an artist and may by no means have given it up! I believe it’s important that her early work was so impressed by Amrita Sher-Gil; she, too, was a lady putting out to make her identify. Nonetheless, not like the male members of the PAG, Athaiya determined to not play the ravenous artist. She selected one other path, and I believe we should respect that. She isn’t “lesser” as a result of she selected to be a designer. In any case, she was the primary Indian to win an Oscar. So she was proved proper; it introduced artistic success faster than being an artist would have achieved. 

Bhanu was certainly forward of her time – when it comes to her contribution to cinema. And additionally in displaying how the completely different elements of the Fashionable fed off one another in Nehruvian India: movie, design, style and portray. However it’s troublesome to attract this conclusion simply from her artwork. In any case, she didn’t apply for very lengthy, so we don’t know what her mature model would have regarded like. It additionally appears a bit wrong-headed to attempt to stuff her contribution to tradition again into the class which she made a aware selection to maneuver away from: portray. 

Maybe, our makes an attempt to take a look at her solely by means of this positiveartwork body are a misunderstanding of her contribution and the instances she lived in. Keep in mind, M. F. Husain began off by portray cinema hoardings, designing furnishings for Fantasy and units for Alkazi’s theatre productions – the Moderns have been extra plural aesthetically than we enable them to be looking back. 

I met her simply earlier than the New York present – her daughter launched us after I went to their residence to take a look at Bhanu’s work. It was too late by the point I tracked them right down to borrow them for the New York present. However, I wished a lot to see the works that had been within the 1953 present, to incorporate them within the guide for The Progressive Revolution, in addition to to fulfill Bhanu. Her great daughter, Radhika Gupta, kindly gave me a tour of the work (which have been hanging in her residence in Mumbai) and took me in to Bhanu’s room for a quick go to. Bhanu was unwell, however she regarded so regal, and I used to be so in awe that I might hardly get a phrase out.  

Nationwide Award-winning Costume Designer  

By successful the Oscar, what Bhanu Athaiya has given to us costume designers is respectability and recognition. Her award was an actual landmark second.

Everyone knows her as a dressing up designer, however she was primarily a gifted artist who was influenced by Amrita Sher-Gil and educated by VS Gaitonde. She selected to be a dressing up designer most likely at a interval when she didn’t even know what being a dressing up designer would imply.  

Her journey has been that of an artist who turned a dressing up designer. She was so meticulous in her detailing, which is clear in a movie like Gandhi. She gave a number of significance to the ageing of costumes, which everybody was not conscious of at the moment. She went into the soul of a personality and her costumes are an integral a part of every character. That’s the reason, for me, she is an inspiration. With single-minded devotion, she made a mark not only for herself but additionally for the remainder of us who got here after her. We’re indebted to her for that, and it’s actually unhappy that India’s first technician to be awarded with an Oscar has not been given a Padma award by the Authorities of India. She didn’t consider in networking. Her work was her calling card. It speaks for itself even at the moment. 

I met her simply after the capturing of The Deceivers was accomplished and earlier than she began work on Ajooba. There was a number of cloth left over from the set of The Deceivers, and Shashi Kapoor wished to take that for Ajooba. Since she was the costume designer for his movie, it was the primary time that I met her, though I had began my profession with Warmth and Mud, in the identical yr she received the Oscar. I spent in the future along with her – sadly I by no means labored along with her on a movie – and I realised that she knew precisely what she wished. She was targeted and exact. She got here throughout as an expert, heat human being.  

It was an excellent honour for me to share the stage with Bhanu Athaiya on the August Kranti Maidan, Mumbai in August 1997 on the operate that celebrated 50 years of India’s Independence. Each of us have been a part of that venture. We designed the costumes and had our separate areas of labor. She knew precisely which gown man she wished to tie the turban! I’ve learnt from her meticulous detailing, sense of design and color. She epitomised all that’s artistic, disciplined and exquisite on the earth of costume design.  

Producer and Director  

I had the pleasure of working with Bhanu Athaiya in 1942: A Love Story. She is completely fabulous. She designed Anil Kapoor’s look, who, at the moment, had lengthy hair and was very completely different trying. However it was she who designed that look with the cap. For that movie, Anil minimize his hair quick, and it was remarkable at the moment as a result of there was continuity of assorted different movies that went into a multitude. However it was her imaginative and prescient that got here to life. And additionally within the look of Jackie [Shroff] – he wore just one overcoat all through the movie. She was a superb collaborator, and it was nice to work with somebody who understood the cinematic language of costume.  

Vogue and Artistic Guide   

Bhanu Athaiya’s legacy in costume design is unparalleled. The authenticity in her artistic course of, the eye to element, her ardour and huge physique of labor are really inspirational. She was one in every of our mentors and jury members at NIFT, Delhi in ’99. 

I bear in mind in school I’d as soon as created these heart-shaped, embroidered spectacles with crystal teardrops for a enjoyable character, a lovesick woman, as a part of a group, which excited and amused her a lot!  

She at all times regarded on the college students’ work fastidiously, mentioning delicate particulars and giving extremely precious suggestions. Her legacy will stay on.  

Costume Designer and Stylist 

Again in 2011, after I was interning, I’d purchased Bhanu Athaiya’s guide [The Art of Costume Design], and since then it has travelled with me to the various cities that I’ve moved to. I used to be rereading a number of the chapters this morning; holding the guide once more felt particular, she has impressed my analysis course of immensely. Her unparalleled data in textiles and creativity at a time when there was no social media or web – is one thing one can solely think about. Her disciplined laborious work and the detailed depth she went into when creating her characters is inspiring. Her costume work has so many textures, and I attempt to adapt that in my aesthetic too.  

She silently labored at a time when no one really appreciated or credited the work of costume designers and stylists. She has laid the inspiration for us all and we nonetheless have an extended strategy to go to return near her physique of labor. As she stated, ‘the educational by no means stops’. She’s made me realise that that is an artwork that we develop outdated with, it’s not a two-year profession plan.  

Vogue Communication Scholar, NIFT

Over time, I’ve learnt that element may very well be obtained in even the simplicity of an outfit after getting understood the essence of a personality. That’s what I felt Bhanu Athaiya has discreetly embedded into my mind; that’s why her work stood out and made it so memorable. 

Accent Design Scholar, NIFT

She characterised her work with deep analysis, delicacy, and finesse. Bhanu Athaiya has taught me to tie the knots amongst these three qualities, to give you the essence of the fulfilment and ease in all the pieces. Her never-stopping and ever-changing profession paths, from a contract illustrator to a famend costume designer in showbiz, imbibed the notion of at all times believing in my work. 

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