Here is How Bhanu Athaiya Became First Indian to Win Oscar Award

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There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise. Bhanu Athaiya is one of them who was desperate with her aim and wanted to flourish her creativity onto a real platform. She is the woman who got immense success, when people were having various women related taboos.

Bhanu made many impossible things possible with the help of his father, who made a way to success for her.

Let’s see, who is Bhanu Athaiya and how she traveled her journey towards success.


Who is Bhanu Athaiya?

Born on 28th April 1929, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, she set the best example for all those people who still believes that the girls are born for cooking and stitching.

Yes! Of course! They could be born with such creativity skills as well, but their expertise in such domains can make them a celebrity, if a right path is given to them.

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Bhanu Athaiya is one of them who garnished her creativity by continuous working with the reputed organizations at the time, when working woman was not acceptable in the society.

Bhanu Athaiya was blessed to Annasaheb and Shantabai Rajopadhye. She was third beloved child among seven children. Somehow, Bhanu managed to tackle with every situation and kept on moving with her talent of designing. Now, she is a popular celebrity who won first Oscar for India and many more awards. Her journey started at the very early stage.


Childhood days of Bhanu Athaiya:

Bhanu Athaiya borned in a privileged Brahmin family, where all of them studied ancient sciences. Her father was a leisure man who broke the tradition and indulged himself with his artistic passions and interests. He was not only the one who got involved in artistic activities, but also insisted his family with the same.

Being a father of seven kids, it was difficult for Annasaheb to make each of his kid a superstar. All he could do was to help his kids with studies and provide the right path to achieve their goals and so he did. It was only him (Bhanu’s father) who gave the clue to Bhanu in realizing her interest and passion.

At her childhood, Annasaheb used to call Bhanu for washing his brushes and palette. She never denied him for this job, instead she loved always doing this. Slowly and gradually, she realized that she too have an inherited interest within such arts.

Thus, her father helped her by arranging a teacher who used to visit Bhanu’s home to give her drawing lessons. Usually, parents do not arrange teachers for such classes, but he did. This is why she is now a celebrity and a renowned designer.


Schooling and training:

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Bhanu’s father, Annasaheb was not the father who followed the ongoing trend of marrying the daughter at early age without allowing her to study.

Her father was different who not only encouraged Bhanu by his lessons and providing her a home tutor for drawing, but also sent her out of the city, Kolhapur to pursue her passion. He sent him to the city of Maharashtra and enrolled her at the JJ School of Arts where she studied arts.

Unfortunately, she lost her dearest father, Annasaheb, when she was just 9 years old. Although, his physical presence was not there for her who could guide her always. But, before leaving the world, Annasaheb left lots of inspiration for Bhanu that helped throughout her way of success.

Bhanu Athaiya did not stopped her journey nor she gave a thought of dropping out the school. Instead she moved forward with a stronger passion than earlier and showed up an outstanding performance.

Resulting of this, she completed graduation in fine arts from the JJ School of Art with top honours. For this, she was awarded with gold medal and a fellowship.

This was the first milestone of her success which helped her to get motivated. Following her father’s inspirations, Bhanu got second achievement when she got nominated as a member of Progressive Artist’s Group founded by Francis Newton Souza.


How Bhanu stepped into the career of designing?

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Bhanu was very bold and confident with her aim as it was her father who never let her down, but provided all the resources which acted as the building blocks of her career. She started as a freelancer and worked as the fashion illustrator for women’s magazines in Mumbai. These also included ‘Eve Weekly’, one of the popular magazines.

Her career got the booster, when one of the magazine’s editor opened a boutique and offered the proposal of designing the dresses. This was the first time, when she realized her talent of designing clothes.

She always admired her father working with keen interests, so did she. This helped her to become expertise and popular too. Later, she switched to various other dynamic career paths.


Achievements and success in designing world:

Bhanu never gave up with the excellence gifted by her father, instead she made remarkable achievements throughout her career. CID released in 1956 was the first film for which she designed dresses. This is how her career started with Guru Dutt’s films, which made her the part of Guru Dutt team.

With her expertise, she came into notice of various filmmakers and thus, she got an opportunity to work with Yash Chopra, Ashutosh Gowariker, Raj Kapoor and many more.

Her talent was not limited to national level, but it also got recognition across the world. She also got an excellent opportunity to work with international directors including Richard Attenborough and Conard Rooks. She continuously stepped towards her success and got fame in the entire entertainment industry.

Successfully, she worked with more than 100 films among which some of the popular ones include Ganga Jamuna, Waqt, Guide, Karz, The Burning Train, Ram Teri Ganga Maili and there are many more which makes a huge list.

While working on these films, she received numerous awards. The first award she got was Academy Award for Best Costume Design for Gandhi in 1982.

Following it, she received 5 honors in the form of awards and 1 nomination. Not only this, Bhanu gave the pride to India and her family, by becoming first Indian to win Academy Award and Oscar Award.

Her achievements of winning the first ever awards with different titles was inspiring for all the parents of early 19th century, who believed that girls can never bring the pride for the family. But, against all the believes, she not only made her family proud, but the entire nation. Ultimately, she became the rockstar of the costume designing world for which her father who budded the roots of her success which kept on growing year by year.

This is why, she still feel thankful to her father and family support. In some of her interviews, she talked about her family. A few of her statements have been listed here.


Bhanu remembering her father and childhood days:

No doubt, Bhanu Athaiya started garnishing her talent since childhood for which her father helped with all his efforts. He not only went against the tradition of studying ancient science, but also sent her daughter out of the city for professional training. He searched the best school for her where she showed up her excellence and won gold medals.

Her childhood was the best phase of life, remembering which she have shared a few things in her interview. A few of them are as follows:

  • Among all, the best phase of her life was when she was a very small kid. She admired her father involving her in various activities which fascinated her and helped to become a popular designer.

She says, “Though I was born into an orthodox Brahmin family, where everybody studied the ancient sciences, it was my father, Anna Saheb, who broke the rules by taking up fine arts. . . . He painted portraits in oil in the academic style. When he would finish painting, he would call me to clean his brushes and palette. I loved the job and did it sincerely. Even now it is one of my fondest memories.”


  • Very first phase, when she was sent to JJ School of Arts for studying her passion. Remembering it she says, Travelling to Bombay was very exciting for me. It had been a dream for a long time, and I felt like it was finally happening. I made the journey with my art teacher from Kolhapur, who had convinced my mother to send me.”.
  • She grew up in the beautiful city for which she stated, I had a fairytale childhood. I grew up in Kolhapur, which was a princely state at that time, complete with all its pomp and pageantry. I often saw horses and elephants on my way to school.”
  • Recalling the events organized in her city that astonished with the magnificent costume, she said, I remember those magnificent processions, with elephants all dressed up, horses with uniformed guards on them and cheetahs. The maharajah would be at the centre of it all, followed by guards in all their finery walking behind his rath.”
  • Many times, she also enjoyed with her siblings. Those mischievous pranks also made her to recall and thus, she says, My family lived in a 300-year-old house with a huge courtyard and balconies surrounding it. It belonged to my ancestors since the time the great warrior Shivaji’s daughter-in-law founded Kolhapur. And — before you ask — no, there weren’t any ghosts in it. I guess the ruckus we seven siblings created scared all of them away!”
  • Since, Bhanu was the kid who was born before India’s independence.

She also had a very amazing experience, recalling which she said,On Sunday afternoons, all of us children, including the ones from the neighborhood, would come together and watch dancing bears and monkeys perform tricks. Sometimes a man would show up with his magic box into which you could peep to see pictures of the Gateway of India and other images from the days of the British Raj, such as grand ballroom dances.


While we watched, he sang: ‘‘Bodiya Bandar (as the Gateway is called in Hindi) dekho, raja ki rani dekho, rani ki naach dekho…’’ It was fascinating for us to watch European ladies dance in their gorgeous ballroom dresses. When the show would get over, we would clap our hands in glee.”


Bhanu Athaiya who never stopped:

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  • Athaiya was always motivated by her father. Thus, admiring his interest of making her a professional artist, she never let her down. She was so passionate about her career that she got fame across the world.

She got so popular that Richard Atten, who took 17 years to release Gandhi took only 15 minutes to decide that Bhanu was the perfect designer who can design the best costumes for his movie. And, she did by fulfilling his expectations with such desperation that made her to win the first Academy Award for India.

  • In 2010, she released the book The Art of Costume Design which was published by Harper Lee. Following this, she presented the copy of her book to Dalai Lama.
  • She brought the revolution within the entire entertainment industry.

Praising her work, Time Out Bengaluru mentioned her and stated, “The tightly fitted churidar and kurta that clung to Sadhana’s body caused young girls all over India to leave everything and rush to their tailors. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, stars such as Asha Parekh, Vyjayanthimala and Mumtaz showed off their plump hips and full bosoms in Athaiya’s snug creation.”

  • Moreover, Thakore emceed the launch of her book. He too complimented Athaiya and said,Bhanu had designed costumes for two of my plays ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ and ‘Farukh Of Finchley‘. She had done an elaborate job with great attention to detail. We were very pleased with her work and that’s why I recommended her to Richard Attenborough. Thereafter whatever she achieved was purely because of the hard work that she put into her work.”
  • Bhanu was so blessed with the talent gifted by her father that most of the people helped her in overcoming various obstructions. Simi Garewal was one of them. Since, there were no telephones for communication, so she helped Bhanu to convey messages to wherever she wanted. Not only this, Simi also helped her in many ways.


Lesson from Bhanu’s achievements:

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Despite of the fact that girls were not allowed to go out of their cities for their career, Bhanu’s father never cared. He was only focusing on the skills and interest that her daughter was having. Thus, he helped her to go and attend the professional school, where she successfully got the training.

Now, when Bhanu Athaiya is 86 years old and still working with the leading shows and films, there still exists the family who do not send their kids away from their hometown.

No matter, whatever is the interest, a child should be given an opportunity. If Bhanu’s father had also thought the same, we would have never got a woman who became the first Indian to receive an Oscar and Academy Award. There are many achievements that have been never brought by India, but our kids could become one of them who can bring those titles or awards.

YoGems is also taking initiatives for bringing the children’s talent forward so that they can rise and shine for India like Bhanu Athaiya did. Be it, art & craft, dance, music, sports or entertainment, we are offering a platform for children to participate, perform and expose their hidden talent.



Shivangi Gupta is a Content Writer Expert at YoGems. With years of experience in writing blogs, articles and guides, she writes about every sport. Also, she is good at sports and expert in shooting and won numerable awards at various events. She started receiving shooting training under her father at the age of 6. To get updated with her posts, stay tuned to the website.