The world renowned costume designer Bhanu Athaiya has passed away at the age of 91, in her home in the Indian city of Mumbai.

The cause of her death is being reported in Indian media as being related to a long-term brain tumour that left her confined to bed for the last few years.

Athaiya came from humble beginnings having been born in Kolhapur, as one of seven children.

Bhanu Athaiya –

She was fortunate however, in that her father was an artist with a passion for photography and connections to the movie industry himself.

After moving to Mumbai in her late teens when it was still known as Bombay she first worked in fashion as an illustrator at the same time as attending art school to learn how to paint.

Her first big break came whilst she was still in her mid 20s in 1956, when she won a position as a costume designer in the popular film C.I.D.

As India’s first Oscar winner, Athaiya made headlines around the world for the costumes she designed across almost 50 years, with her Oscar win coming for her part in the iconic film about the life of Mahatma Gandhi in the early 80s.

During her career she worked on over 100 movies, many in India’s Bollywood, where she came close to a second Oscar having played a part in the nominated, but ultimately unsuccessful movie Lagaan in 2001.


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