Following the opening of The Legacy of Bhanu Athaiya exhibit was an insightful discussion between stalwarts Ritu Kumar (Textile Historian and Fashion Designer) and Kiran Nadar (Founder and Chairperson KNMA). H.H. MAHARANI Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda inaugurated the event and fondly spoke of her learnings while documenting and intensively researching the legacy of India's most globally renowned costume designer Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya.
Below is artist Krishen Khanna's heartfelt letter in remembrance of Bhanu Athaiya while reiterating the importance of this exhibition.
H.H. MAHARANI Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda draws parallels between Bhanu's childhood influences and her consequential creative oeuvre constantly reflecting the traditions and culture she grew up in Kolhapur with. Bhanu Athaiya's ability to translate all this information into the medium of cinema and art made her the first Indian to win an Oscar.
Radhika Gupta (Bhanu Athaiya's daughter) recalls her three-year-long journey of documenting her mother's sweeping legacy with Prinseps. Bhanu Athaiya was still around then and was thrilled to know that her sketches which were so dear to her heart, would be looked after.
Ritu Kumar speaks of her professional correspondence with Bhanu Athaiya as a costume designer. She remembers Bhanu's persona as quiet and someone who spoke through her work. Bhanu changed the face of Indian Cinema through her incomparable and iconic costume designs. Ritu Kumar divides Hindi Cinema into two time periods: one before Bhanu and the other after Bhanu. She recalls Bollywood after Bhanu's entry as sensitive to Indian sensibilities, where her intrinsic research was visible in the designs she made.
Be it Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam or Raj Kapoor's films where the famous vamp dresses took the world by storm or the Oscar-winning Gandhi; Ritu Kumar speaks of how Bhanu would visit film locations beforehand and travel immensely to conduct research. "You cannot conceive village imagery without visiting rural areas." Ritu Kumar speaks of the film Gandhi, which Bhanu worked on in the 80s and won an Oscar for. Bhanu gave that film the required authenticity and creativity in volumes by traveling to the remotest of Indian regions to extract and reflect the essence of the film. "When I asked Bhanu how she did all of this, she told me: I didn't sleep or eat for months! That is what she told me, and I can believe it."
Kiran Nadar speaks of Bhanu as an inimitable artist. Quoting master artist Krishen Khanna, Kiran Nadar talks about Bhanu's spontaneity with which she would sketch. Her ability to visualise and translate a concept on paper gave her the linkage between art and her cinematic journey. Bhanu's paintings have a deeper meaning and reiterate the fact that modernism goes beyond painting. Kiran Nadar remembers Bhanu Athaiya not only as a costume designer but also as someone who was always involved with and in art.
To view more details of the exhibit, click here.