Bhanu Athaiya might not be a recognizable name for many. However, the costume designer has acquired legendary status not just for her work but also because she was the first Indian to win an Oscar. At an event held by Jio MAMI in Mumbai on Tuesday, September 26, Bhanu Athaiya was celebrated by Ashutosh Gowariker, Sonam Kapoor and costume designer Shruti Kapoor.
Ashutosh Gowariker reveals that originally, Aamir Khan-starrer Lagaan was set in 1895: “I felt it would be nice to have the birth of Indian National Congress and rise of Bhuvan as a hero”
Ashutosh Gowariker, who worked with her in Lagaan (2001) and Swades (2004), shared about how he formed a bond with her. He said, “It was absolutely wonderful working with her. The script of Lagaan was locked. Even before I had anyone on board as a producer or actor, I knew that the costumes should be done by Bhanu tai. The most important thing for me was that here is a person who has dressed almost every heroine right from the 70s and every iconic silhouette that we see of the actresses. Today, if you make a 60 second video on the heroines of India, 70% of the outfits will be hers.”
Ashutosh Gowariker continued, “My only worry was whether she’ll say yes to a director who (has given two unsuccessful films). So, I tried to play the card of ‘Mee Kolhapur cha aahe. Tumhi pan Kolhapur che aahe’ (Just like you, even I belong to Kolhapur)! That was my introduction to her.”
Ashutosh then revealed how she came on board for Lagaan, “I narrated the entire script to her. She loved it. She then requested if it was possible for me to change the year in the film. She asked if I could push it a little ahead.”
Ashutosh Gowariker further said, “Originally, the year was 1885. I chose 1885 as that was the year when the Indian National Congress (INC) was formed. I felt it would be nice to have the birth of the INC and rise of Bhuvan as a hero.” Bhuvan was the name of the lead character, played by Aamir Khan.
Ashutosh Gowariker added, “I said I am okay to change the year but asked the reason for it. She explained, ‘Queen Victoria was in mourning. She came out of it around 1890. That’s when all the wardrobe changed from black and grey and became colourful’. I was absolutely blown. That showed how much knowledge she had!”
He ended by saying, “Of course I was happy to make the change and that’s how the year changed to 1893.”