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India’s first Oscar winner Bhanu Athaiya dies at 91

Mumbai, Oct 15 (IANS) Costume designer Bhanu Athaiya, who became the first Indian to win an Oscar, is no more. She was 91 and died at her residence after prolonged illness.

Athaiya won the Academy Award in the Best Costume Design category at the 1983 Oscars for her work in Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi”. She also won a BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design for the film. Athaiya is also a two-time National Award winner for costume designing in “Lekin” (1991) and “Lagaan” (2001).

In 2012, Athaiya returned her Oscar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for safe keeping.

In a career spanning nearly five decades, Athaiya worked with numerous feted filmmakers including Raj Kapoor, Kamal Amrohi, Guru Dutt, Yash Chopra, BR Chopra, Vijay Anand, Raj Khosla, Gulzar, Ketan Mehta, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Subhash Ghai, and Ashutosh Gowariker.

“India’s first Oscar winner #bhanuathaiya is no more. You been a guiding light, when nobody even heard of the Oscars you won it for us, you been an inspiration … May your soul Rest In Peace… It’s a huge loss for me personally and @TheAcademy,” tweeted sound designer Resul Pookutty, who won an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing in Danny Boyle’s 2008 film, “Slumdog Millionaire”. Pookutty hashtagged his post as #RIPBhanuAthaiya

It is reported that her last rites took place at the Chandanwadi crematorium in south Mumbai on Thursday.

Athaiya began her career as a costume designer in Hindi cinema with Guru Dutt’s 1956 superhit “C.I.D.”, and went on to work in over 100 films.

After creating history by winning the Oscar for “Gandhi” along with John Mollo, she said in her acceptance speech: “It’s too good to believe. Thank you Academy and thank you Richard Attenborough for focusing world attention on India.”

Producer Boney Kapoor also mourned the loss. “Bhanu Athiya was the First Indian to win an Oscar in 1983. Her achievements brought glory to Indian cinema and Pride to the entire Country. Was blessed to have her for our film #Prem. She will always be an inspiration to all costume designers n stylists. #RIPBhanuAthiya,” he tweeted.

Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha shared: “Rest in Power Bhanu. It was a privilege working with you.”

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