India connect at Oscars: Win for ‘My Octopus Teacher’, Irrfan and Athaiya remembered

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April 26, 2021 4:35 PM

"My Octopus Teacher", which has Indian filmmaker Swati Thiyagarajan as associate producer and production manager, won the best documentary feature at the Oscars, which also honoured actor Irrfan Khan and costume designer Bhanu in its 'In Memoriam' segment.

Like every year, the Academy Awards paid tribute to industry legends who passed away in the last year in its three-minute 'In Memoriam' montage.

“My Octopus Teacher”, which has Indian filmmaker Swati Thiyagarajan as associate producer and production manager, won the best documentary feature at the Oscars, which also honoured actor Irrfan Khan and costume designer Bhanu in its ‘In Memoriam’ segment. Indian echoes at the 93rd Academy Awards, a social distancing event held in the shadow of the pandemic, were faint but distinct.

“We won!!! Best documentary feature Oscar!!!,” Thiyagarajan, who has also written Born Wild: Journey into the Wild Hearts of India and Africa, tweeted after “My Octopus Teacher” bagged the Oscar. The Netflix Original documentary, directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, documents a year spent by filmmaker Craig Foster and his unusual relationship with a female octopus in a South African kelp forest. Foster was also a producer via his involvement with the Sea Change Project while wife Thiyagarajan was the production manager for the film.

Like every year, the Academy Awards paid tribute to industry legends who passed away in the last year in its three-minute ‘In Memoriam’ montage. Khan and Athaiya featured alongside Chadwick Boseman, Sean Connery, Christopher Plummer, Olivia de Havilland, Kirk Douglas, George Segal, director Kim-ki-Duk, Max von Sydow and others.

Khan, 54, one of India’s most versatile actors with performances in “Maqbool”, “Life of Pi” and “The Namesake”, lost his battle with a rare form of cancer on April 29, in a Mumbai hospital. Athaiya, India’s first Oscar winner, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and died at her home on October 15 last year after prolonged illness at the age of 91.

In 1983, she won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for Richard Attenborough’s biopic of Mahatma Gandhi titled ‘Gandhi’, which swept Oscars with eight awards. They were not the only ones who were remembered. The Academy also honoured veteran actors Soumitra Chatterjee, Rishi Kapoor, Shashikala as well as Sushant Singh Rajput, stars that Indian cinema lost in the last one year, on their website’s lookback section though their names was not in the video montage.

Kapoor, a romantic hero of many Bollywood movies and a character of repute in later years, died on April 30 last year after a battle with cancer. He was 69. Rajput, 34, a rising star, was found hanging in his Mumbai apartment in June last year, a death that shocked Bollywood and led to allegations about the treatment of outsiders in the industry and drug use. Shashikala, a character actor in the ’50s and 60s, died earlier this month at the age of 88.

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