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Bhanu Athaiya: A star among costume designers

Anshu Khanna

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It was in 1988, as a writer for a leading women’s magazine that I met Bhanu Athaiya, the fabled India costume designer who had done the nation proud when she held the black lady on the world’s most coveted award stage: The Oscars. It was India’s first Oscar and that too given for a movie that personified the aura of the father of the nation: Mahatma Gandhi. One still recalls the euphoria when in 1983 she went on stage, a repertoire of 100 movies to back her, to accept the Oscars dressed in a turquoise blue chiffon and a stunning, silver choker. So immense was the impact of the movie and its costume that no one forgot the vision of Attenborough dressed in a loin cloth marching towards Dandi.

 One of her closest friends, Simi Garewal said Athaiya was suffering from dementia and didn’t remember anything or any of the films, except Gandhi. “It was very hard to talk to her. I felt sad… Is this what happens to talented human beings? It is a huge sense of loss. She had a brain tumour too for eight years. Maybe it was time for her to be at peace. She has left a legacy,” Garewal told PTI. 

I met her in her humble home as she was seated on top of a trunk, her shoulder length hair tied into two plaits. We were doing a story on the changing face of costuming in Indian cinema and the arrival of designers onto this field. A bit feisty and totally avant-garde, she only had nice things to say for her fraternity, insisting that change was the only constant and she herself felt the biggest fulfilment in her world of historic costumes. As Priyanka Chopra tweeted, “What an amazing body of work — Oscar-winning costume designer for Gandhi, the inventor of the Mumtaz saree… an inspiration to so many young designers… Her legacy will live on forever. My condolences to the family.” 

Recalling Athaiya’s work, ace fashion designer Manish Malhotra said, “Bhanuji’s work was inspirational and I admired it so much. She made the Amrapali costume for Vyjayanthimala in the film Amrapali which was very popular. The costumes in the movie and the colour combinations in one song in which Vyjayanthimala was wearing just a soft pink top and an Amrapali bottom and delicate pearl jewellery were all so beautiful. In Brahmachari, Mumtaz’s orange colour dress became such a huge hit that all her hit songs thereafter had orange dresses. In ‘Aaj kal tere mere’ song, Bhanuji did the three-layered completely body-hugging stitched sari which is popular in fashion even today. Her work in Raj Kapoor films has always been fabulous.”

 Malhotra recalled how Athaiya made a difference with her work. “You see Resham Aur Shera, you see her work with Rekha, the colour combinations of what she did with Mumtaz in all of her films, her work in Guide keeping that elegance and get so much beauty as well fashion… Just this morning I was talking to Rekhaji and she said that Bhanuji was ‘so much into textile, she understood textile’. Her work is iconic.” 

As spoken by the doyenne of Indian fashion Ritu Kumar, “The first and only costume designer to receive an Oscar for Gandhi, Bhanu Atharva is no more. Sometimes I feel that in the din of fashion shows we may not have adequately understood her contribution. She created an authenticity and mood through her well researched work rare to find especially for her film Gandhi where every sari and dhoti told a tale. The passing of an era.” Indeed, Bhanu understood the cadence of costuming. In Siddhartha she went for an ethereal beige and gold palette while dressing Simi. For Gandhi she kept the narrative totally rooted. In Lagaan she was precise both while dressing the British, the brown sahib Indian as well as the village folks.

 “We lost a giant in the world of costume design. The most soft-spoken and gentle lady. It was an honour to have brushed shoulders with you Bhanutai. I cherish every single day working with you for Lagaan and Swades,” tweeted Ashutosh Gowariker. 

A Marathi from Kolhapur, Bhanu always had a soft corner for Marathi cinema. As Renuka Shahane, a respected Maratha and actor, tweeted, “Winner of an Oscar award, the pride of our country, yet so very humble. I had the great privilege of working with her in the Marathi film Katha Don Ganpatravanchi.” Artists like her will rarely cross the threshold to cinema. So, let’s celebrate a legend.

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EX-CONTESTANTS ON BIGG BOSS SURVIVAL KIT

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Have you ever wondered what it must be like, to be in the Bigg Boss house for weeks and months, far from your near ones — from all humanity, actually — and with cameras playing agents of voyeurism, dishing out your every move to the world outside?

 Most ‘Bigg Boss’ housemates would tell you the experience can leave you mentally drained, unless you develop a strong defence mechanism. The ones who have truly excelled talk of the need for a psychological survival kit, to tide over the tremendous pressure that the mind games inside the house bring in.

 ‘Bigg Boss 7’ winner Gauahar Khan counts the ability to retain one’s individuality as the biggest weapon.

“There is no fixed formula to win the show but I think it has a lot to do with one’s individuality. What you are and how well you connect to the audience matters the most. Everyone has a different personality. It’s just that one should know how to portray the traits in front of the audience,” Gauahar tells IANS.

 Actress Kamya Punjabi, who was one of the star attractions in the seventh season, recalls how she wanted to leave the show midway as it was becoming “unbearable” for her to live without her little daughter.

“It’s not at all easy to survive in the house. I remember there were days when I felt like leaving the show in between to go and meet my daughter. I was missing her so much,” says Kamya. For Kamya the tool of survival was the sheer realisation that getting to be on the show was a big deal. “It was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I knew I would never get this chance again. I knew I would meet my daughter after three months but I wouldn’t get such a golden chance again. That kept me going,” she recalls.

 A lot of playacting and drama may go on, but season 13 star Paras Chhabra insists it is important to stay real to make it to the finals. “People love a true personality. Stay as you are. If something wrong happens, stand for your beliefs,” he says.

Paras also emphasises on the necessity to be resiliently good with the tasks. “Tasks are very important in ‘Bigg Boss’. A contestant should be able to perform well in the tasks. It’s one of the surviving elements,” he adds. Paras was one of the top contestants in the 13th season. He left the finale race after opting for the cash prize of Rs 10 lakh.

 Mahira Sharma, who made headlines for her close bond with Paras in the house, has similar advice. “I feel it was my honesty and reality that worked. I don’t create relationships with others just for the sake of anything. If I am friends with someone, I try to give my 100 percent to that bond. I think that’s what people loved about me when I was in the house,” she says.

 Survival, of course, can mean different things to different people, and it shows in the way contestants approach the game.

For season 13 housemate Aarti Singh, the essential item in her survival kit was a strong urge to prove herself. It is something that helped her reach the finale race despite panic attacks, she says. “I knew this was my last chance to prove myself. I would be lying if I say it was easy to live in the house. I had panic attacks while I was living in the house and it was all on national TV. I showed every side of mine because I knew it was a do or die situation. Whether I was real or confident or lallu or oversmart — whatever I was, I was just real. People appreciate truth and honesty,” shares Aarti.

 Do the trademark abuses and fights of the show really help contestants to gain mileage and survive till the end? Actress Devoleena Bhattacharjee, who participated in season 13, disagrees.

“Abusive behaviour may help you survive but it can create a lot of negative impact, too. I remember Salman sir used to warn us and always remind us that there’s life outside the show and we should present ourselves in a dignified manner,” she notes.

 Paras says unnecessary fights, howsoever they may let you grab eyeballs, is the last thing you would want in your survival kit inside the house. “If there are valid fights, it’s okay. But that does not mean you keep on fighting. There have been instances when contestants got evicted owing to their fights,” he points out.

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Natalie is training for new Thor film

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Actress Natalie Portman says she finds training for the upcoming superhero film, ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, hard. The actress opened up about preparing for the film in Sydney when she joined ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ virtually, reports eonline.com. Fallon pointed out that a lot of training and exercise goes into superhero films, and Portman confessed she was dreading it. “I’m trying. I’ve also had months of pandemic, eating baked goods and lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself. So I’m super tired during and after working out and dreading before,” she said. The Oscar winning actress is all set to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’. She will be the first female to play the superhero Thor.

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Matthew was sexually abused as a teen

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Matthew McConaughey has revealed that he has been a victim of sexual abuse several times during his teenage years. In his new memoir, ‘Greenlights’, McConaughey opened up about being sexually abused, reports variety.com.

 In the beginning of the book, McConaughey shares several facts about himself, which include his personal experience with sexual abuse. He revealed that his first time having sex was not consensual and that he was “blackmailed” into it. “I was blackmailed into having sex for the first time when I was 15. I was certain I was going to hell for the premarital sex. Today, I am merely certain that I hope that’s not the case,” he writes in his memoir.

 McConaughey also revealed that he was “molested by a man when (he) was 18 while knocked unconscious in the back of a van.” He didn’t include many more details about his experience, but McConaughey shared that he does not consider himself a victim of the situations.

 “I’ve never felt like a victim. I have a lot of proof that the world is conspiring to make me happy,” he said. The actor also opened up about his parents’ tumultuous relationship, his marriage to Camila Alves and his philosophy in ‘Greenlights’.

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First look: Prabhas as Vikramaditya in ‘Radhe Shyam’

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Prabhas is all set to ring in his birthday today and to bring in more cheers to his fans with an advanced birthday wish, makers of ‘Radhe Shyam’ released the character poster of Prabhas recently. The star will be portraying the character of Vikramaditya and from the looks of it, the anticipation around his look seems right. Taking to their social media, the makers shared Prabhas’ look and poster, “The Big moment has arrived! Here’s introducing #Prabhas as #Vikramaditya from #RadheShyam! #RadheShyamSurprise #HappyBirthdayPrabhas Starring #Prabhas & @hegdepooja.”

Earlier also, to mark Pooja Hegde’s birthday, the makers had revealed her first look from the movie on her birthday. The team is currently shooting in Torino, Italy. Touted to be a magnum opus, ‘Radhe Shyam’ is suggested to be an epic love story set in Europe. The film also features Sachin Khedekar, Bhagyashree, Priyadarshi, Murali Sharma, Sasha Chettri, and Kunaal Roy Kapur among others. Directed by Radha Krishna Kumar, the multilingual period drama is expected to release in 2021

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A glimpse into Shahid’s early morning cricket practice

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 Shahid Kapoor has shared a sneak-peek from his early morning cricket practice for the upcoming film ‘Jersey’. Shahid is seen hitting a straight drive in a video he posted on Instagram . He is dressed for practice in a black T-shirt, basketball shorts, leg guards, gloves and a helmet. “Early mornings.. wake up with drive,” he wrote alongside the video. The actor and his co-actor Mrunal Thakur recently completed the Uttarakhand schedule of the film. ‘Jersey’ is a Hindi remake of the Telugu hit of the same name. The Hindi version is also being directed by Gowtam Tinnanuri, who helmed the 2019 original. The story is about a talented but failed cricketer named Arjun, who decides to make a comeback in his late thirties and play for India, in order to fulfil his son’s wish.

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ANIL KAPOOR REVEALS HIS WEAKNESS

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Anil Kapoor confessed on social media recently that his weak point is food. The actor also shared how he has adopted a new approach to eating to achieve a sharper look since lockdown.

Anil Kapoor wrote on his verified Instagram account: “Everyone has a weak point. Mine is food. The Punjabi boy in me needs the taste buds ignited, my eyes always bigger than my belly. During lockdown, I have set myself the task of achieving a new sharper look. This new look needs a new approach to eating. Both Harsh and my trainer Marc have taken it upon themselves to remind me constantly and lay down eating plans. I try and I battle. Sometimes I even fall. And what I’ve learnt through it all is that a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. So everyone in the house had to get involved. ”

 Anil added, “From those who kindly cook my food to the support of my family gathered round me at meal time. Fitness is never a one man/ women crusade, it’s about support and encouragement when we need it the most. (Always get family involved and on board to help you in any diet if you wish to make it truely a success).”

 “Is it easy? Not always, if I am honest. Some days the Punjabi boy sulks a little, but then some days, like this day with this picture… it makes it all worth it,” he concluded.

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