Ashutosh Gowariker: Bhanutai was a true-blue costume designer

Filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker collaborated with costume designer Bhanu Athaiya on two of his projects, the Aamir Khan-starrer Lagaan (2001) and Shah Rukh Khan starrer- Swades (2004). Athaiya, India’s first Oscar winner, who bagged the Academy Award for Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982), passed away on Thursday after a prolonged illness. She was 91.

Athaiya designed the costumes of Swades

Gowariker recollects, “Bhanutai was the first and obvious choice as costume designer for Lagaan. I used to always hear about her previous works. The Oscar she received for Gandhi was the jewel in her crown. She was a true blue costume designer. I still remember our first meeting at her office, which was located on the ground floor of her Breach Candy home. I had thought of setting Lagaan in the year 1890, but she told me to set it in 1893. As Queen Victoria was in mourning during that period, she would only wear black and grey, which led to several people in England also wearing the same colours, but by 1893, she had started wearing light colours, so she could have a floral palette while designing for the British characters in Lagaan. I was blown over by her meticulous research and eye for detail.

Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan earned her a National Film Award 

He continued, "She knew the history well, and this was before the days of the Internet and Google search. She just seemed to know everything. Her knowledge about colour and textiles with perspective to the camera was too deep, she knew what would work during a day scene and night scene. It may have appeared laborious, but the results were there to see on screen. In Swades, she put Mohan Bhargav (Shah Rukh Khan) in a half-sleeved shirt. She would always be around on the set and ensure that every actor was happy and comfortable in what they wore.”

Also Read: Bhanu Athaiya (1929-2020) - India's First Oscar-Winning Costume Designer No More

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