Bhanu Athaiya Oscar Award winner: Designing dresses isn't an easy task

As soon as the movie 'Baabi' was released, the audience became fond of wearing Bobby skirts, and after watching 'Noori', they became fond of Kashmiri clothes.

By Bollyy
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Bhanu Athaiya Oscar Award winner Designing dresses isn't an easy task
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Now while watching a movie, the audience would have hardly thought who would have designed these beautiful clothes of the heroine who is seen wearing beautiful colorful clothes on the screen?... Who designed these clothes with the help of which this heroine who looks like East, West, North, and South can do complete justice to her character?

As soon as the movie 'Babi' was released, the audience became fond of wearing bobby skirts, and after watching 'Noori', they became fond of Kashmiri clothes. Along with 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna', Zeenat's jeans became a topic of discussion on every street. There was a time when 'Amrapali' clothes became so famous that the dress came to be known as Amrapali dress which is still famous. Recently, in 'Umrao Jaan', Rekha's acting skills along with her accurate vision of the costumes of Lucknowi singers made the film even better and Rekha received an award. If there had been any shortcoming in either her acting or her costume, Rekha would hardly have received this National Award… That is, to date, we have not been able to realize how important costume designing is, but recently when the very busy lady dress designer Bhanu Athaiya returned after winning not only the National Award but the World Award i.e. Oscar Award (which no one has been able to receive in India till date) for the costume designing of the film 'Gandhi', the eyes of not only India but the entire film industry of the world were opened and only then the importance of a dress designer was realized.

Bhanu Athaiya is an Indian so we are proud of her. I wanted to talk to her so, I caught up with her despite her busy schedule.

As soon as I met Bhanu ji, who was very cheerful and had a playful mind, I asked her, 'How are you feeling after receiving the Oscar Award?'

'I had been expecting an Oscar award for a long time. I have designed the best costumes for so many films but to date, probably everyone thought of dress designing as a game and did not take this subject seriously. I am very happy that I have won an award like Oscar and have brought it to India for the first time. When it was published in the newspaper that I was 'the first Indian woman to receive an Oscar award', I felt that now I was no less than anyone else. It is true that if we were not there, how would these heroes and heroines look beautiful, how would they look real?'

'Bhanu ji, you have shown the art of costume design in many films, but would you like to name a few films that will be written in golden letters in your career?'

'I don't remember that I have been the costume designer for how many actresses and actors in how many films, but since you want to know the names of a few films, I can tell you that I have designed costumes for 'Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam', 'Shri 420', 'Aan', 'Chaah' (I have designed costumes for almost all the films of Raj Kapoor), 'Chandni Chowk', 'Amrapali', 'Satyam Shivam Sundaram', 'Nikaah', 'Reshma Aur Shera' and 'The Golden Lettered Gandhi'... I can never forget these films.'

'When did you start dress designing and what attracted you to stay here even though you know very well that dress designers are not appreciated in the film industry?'

After listening to my long question carefully, she said-- 'I had come to the film industry before becoming 'Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam'. Before that, I used to give information about new types of fashionable dressing for women in a famous English magazine (Eve's Weekly) and used to publish a special issue for women at special festivals, but the attraction of films is tremendous. Even those who come here who do not know what they have to do, at least I knew this. Indeed, at that time I did not have much idea that here dressmakers are not appreciated much, but I had faith in my work efficiency. By the way, I did not come by insisting myself, late Guru Dutt ji had encouraged me to come in this field, for the expansion of my art, and he wanted me to come in the film line. 'Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam' was my first film. Well, I used to get a lot of praise in the old days too. When Nargis ji, Meena ji, and Madhubala ji were alive, they would choose only me for their wardrobes. Their wardrobes used to be full of clothes made by me. But after their demise, people stopped appreciating dress designers. But now after 'Gandhi', people have started looking at us again.

'Which films did you enjoy working in?'

'I had a lot of fun making dresses of Muslim background in the film 'Nikaah'. Generally, it is thought that Muslim attire means it should have provocative colors, lots of glitter, and heavy embroidery. This is wrong. Light and heavy decorations are done according to the time and environment. For in 'Nikaah' when Salma looks very sad, I kept her clothes simple and yellow. I have changed the interest of the audience in 'Nikaah'.

'How do you design dresses for the hero and heroine in a film?'

'People think that dress designing means the work of a tailor, just measuring and cutting the cloth, taking needle and thread, and starting to stitch. No, dress designing is also a technical art. Just like engineers get completely involved mentally and physically in the construction of a building or any new thing, we are also involved in the same way, but the director and producer do not understand this. I want to understand the scene. I want to see the script, I want to know the dialogues but all this is not shown to us. They just say that for the heroine, a sari or a churidar or some modern dress... now how do we know what the situation demands? For this, they want the best work from us. Anyway, I do a lot of research to get a costume made.'  

'What was so special about the clothes in the film 'Gandhi'? Perhaps it does not take much effort to make a dhoti and kurta?'

She suddenly laughed at this question and said, 'Hard work? It took me nine to ten months to get the dhoti and kurta made for this film. It took me no less hard work to get the clothes of Gandhi's era and to get different clothes made for each different personality. It may be easy to make a new design or invent a new style but it is very difficult to copy the clothes of any personality of any era exactly. I designed dresses not only for the main actors of the film Gandhi but also for thousands of people... the crowd. The beauty of my work in this was that the clothes I got made for Gandhi looked very natural. I have even given the correct measurements of Gandhiji's cap and stick.

'What are you doing at this time?'

'Even now I am working with many big banner films (L.V. Prasad, B.R. Chopra, etc.) and also look after Zeenat's personal wardrobe.'

'Are you very commercially minded or do you wish to do something for art films as well?'

'I do pay attention to money, I have to pay attention because this is my business, but at the same time I want artistic satisfaction by working in art films too, but art film does not mean that I should just keep satisfying my art... then how will my business run?'

Bhanu ji, do our Mayapuri readers have anything to say?

'What do I have to say? I have to tell them. Just give them my love.'

After saying this, Bhanu Athaiya smiled openly...Vijay's sweet smile appeared in her eyes.

Old Interview

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Translated by Gaurav

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