Most of us remember costume designer Bhanu Athaiya primarily due to the Oscar she won for Attenborough’s Gandhi (staple question in a Bollywood quiz). But here are some other memorable films over the years for which she designed the costume:
Kaagaz ke Phool
Chaudhvin ka Chand
Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam
Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Ram Teri Ganga Maili
1942: A Love Story
This is just a list of films where I felt the costumes were distinctive and central to the theme, the entire list goes over 100 films. And in some others she designed the costumes only for certain characters - like Waheeda’s in Guide.
We can see she was almost a one lady industry in Bollywood for decades - somewhat like what Lata Mangeshkar has been with her singing. And that’s when you realise what an unparalleled contribution she has made to the Bollywood film world.
Unfortunately Bollywood today seldom considers costume designing as a significant department. Most director-producers are content with getting a famous fashion designer to do the dresses for the lead pair. Perhaps that all that’s needed when they have to dance around in dream sequences at exotic locales. A true costume designer is sorely needed when the film aims at being holistically integrated across all its aspects - something that’s rarely seen in mainstream movies today.
RIP Bhanu ji. Your dedication to your passion will remain an inspiration for a long long time.