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Indian Oscar winners: List of Indians who won Academy Awards

From Satyajit Ray to AR Rahman, let's look at the Indian Oscar winners who've made their mark on global cinema and left lasting legacies

Published: Apr 24, 2024 02:40:22 PM IST
Updated: Apr 24, 2024 08:11:04 PM IST

Indian Oscar winners: List of Indians who won Academy Awards

The Oscars, the pinnacle of recognition in the film world, have served as a testament to cinematic excellence for decades, and Indian Oscar winners are regarded highly in our country indeed. While Hollywood often dominates the spotlight, the global reach of the Academy Awards extends far beyond the borders of Los Angeles.

India, a country with a rich cinematic heritage spanning over a century, has seen its fair share of Oscar winners. From visionary directors to trailblazing musicians, many Oscar winners from India have made their mark on the international stage.

Join us as we delve into the inspiring journeys of these extraordinary individuals who continue to inspire cinema and art.

List of Indian Oscar winners

Oscar winners from India have made significant contributions to the global film industry and left an enduring legacy that transcends borders and resonates with audiences worldwide.

The table below shows the Indian Oscar winners and the categories and years for their victory.

Oscar winners
Category Year they won
#1 Bhanu Athaiya Best Costume Design 1983
#2 Satyajit Ray Honourary Award 1992
#3 Resul Pookutty Best Sound Mixing 2009
#4 Gulzar Best Original Song 2009
#5 AR Rahman Best Original Score and Best Original Song 2009
#6 Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga Best Documentary Short 2023
#7 MM Keeravani and Chandrabose Best Original Song 2023

There are some lesser-known names as well, as follows:

Oscar winners
Category Year they won
#1 Rahul Thakkar Academy Award for Technical Achievement 2016
#2 Cottalango Leon Academy Award for Technical Achievement 2016
#3 Vikas Sathaye Academy Award for Technical Achievement 2018


Time for a more detailed look at the Oscar winners in India:

Bhanu Athaiya

  • Best Costume Design for Film: Gandhi
  • Origin: Kolhapur, Maharashtra
Bhanu Athaiya's career spanned over five decades, during which she collaborated with some of the most celebrated filmmakers in Indian cinema. Her meticulous craftsmanship and keen eye for detail brought characters to life through costume, earning her numerous accolades, including the National Film Award for Best Costume Design.

Beyond her Oscar win for Gandhi, Athaiya's legacy includes iconic costumes in classics such as Guide, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, and Lagaan, establishing her as a trailblazer in Indian costume design.

Indian Oscar winners: List of Indians who won Academy AwardsConsidered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Satyajit Ray was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1992; Image: Corbis

Satyajit Ray

  • Honorary Academy Award
  • Origin: Kolkata, West Bengal
Satyajit Ray's impact on world cinema extends far beyond his Oscar recognition. As a director, screenwriter, and composer, Ray's artistic vision challenged conventions and inspired generations of filmmakers.

His acclaimed Apu Trilogy remains a cornerstone of Indian cinema, while his literary works and illustrations showcase his boundless creativity. Ray's Honourary Oscar in 1992 celebrated a lifetime of cinematic excellence, cementing his status as one of the greatest filmmakers ever.

Resul Pookutty

  • Best Sound Mixing for Film: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Origin: Vilakkupara, Kollam, Kerala
Resul Pookutty's journey from humble beginnings to Oscar glory is a testament to his dedication and talent. Hailing from a small village in Kerala, Pookutty's passion for sound engineering led him to break barriers and redefine the craft.

His collaboration with director Danny Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire not only earned him international acclaim but also paved the way for Indian technicians to excel on the global stage. Pookutty's continued commitment to pushing boundaries in sound design has established him as a pioneering figure in Indian cinema.

Gulzar

  • Best Original Song for Film: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Origin: Dina, part of British India, now in Pakistan
Gulzar's lyrical brilliance and storytelling prowess have made him a revered figure in Indian cinema. From his early days as a poet and lyricist to his prolific career as a filmmaker, Gulzar's contributions have left an indelible mark on Indian culture.

His collaborations with music maestro RD Burman produced timeless classics, while his directorial ventures explored complex human emotions with sensitivity and depth. Gulzar's Oscar win for Jai Ho was a crowning achievement in a career defined by creativity, innovation, and a deep understanding of the human condition.

Indian Oscar winners: List of Indians who won Academy AwardsAR Rahman; Image: Anup Sugunan

AR Rahman

  • Best Original Score and Best Original Song for Film: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Origin: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
AR Rahman's meteoric rise from a young composer in Chennai to an Oscar-winning sensation is the stuff of legends. His groundbreaking fusion of Indian classical music with contemporary sounds revolutionised film music in India and earned him international acclaim.

Rahman's Oscar wins for Slumdog Millionaire propelled him to global stardom, but his contributions to Indian cinema go far beyond awards. As a composer, singer, and producer, Rahman's influence continues to shape the sound of Indian cinema, inspiring millions worldwide.

Indian Oscar winners: List of Indians who won Academy AwardsDirector Kartiki Gonsalves (left) and producer Guneet Monga pose with the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film for "The Elephant Whisperers" in the Oscars photo room at the 95th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US; Image: Mike Blake / Reuters

Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga

  • Best Documentary Short for Film: The Elephant Whisperers
  • Origin: Pune, Maharashtra (Gonsalves) and New Delhi, Delhi (Monga)
In 2022, Kartiki Gonsalves, an Indian-American filmmaker specialising in short documentaries, made her directorial debut with The Elephant Whisperers. Guneet Monga, an Indian film producer and co-founder of Sikhya Entertainment, received the Academy Award along with Gonsalves. Monga began her journey as a producer with the film Say Salaam India in 2007.

The Elephant Whisperers explores the extraordinary relationship between a couple and Raghu, a baby elephant they care for after he is orphaned.

Premiering at the DOC NYC Film Festival on November 9, 2022, the movie, produced by Sikhya Entertainment, gained worldwide exposure when it became available on Netflix on December 8, 2022. It garnered additional praise by clinching the prestigious Best Documentary Short Film title at the 2023 Oscars.

Indian Oscar winners: List of Indians who won Academy AwardsIndian lyricist Chanrabose and Indian musical composer MM Keeravaani hold the Oscar for Best Music (Original Song) for their song "Naatu Naatu" in "RRR", backstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 12, 2023. AMPAS / AFP

MM Keeravani and Chandrabose

  • Best Original Song for Film: RRR
  • Origin: Kovvur (MM Keeravani) and Challagariga (Chandrabose), Andhra Pradesh
The catchy track Naatu Naatu from SS Rajamouli's blockbuster RRR secured the Best Original Song accolade at the 2023 Golden Globes. The triumph extended further when, on March 12, just before the 2023 Academy Awards, the song also captured an Oscar in the same category. Composers MM Keeravani and Chandrabose marked the victory with a live performance onstage.

Rahul Chandrakant Thakkar

  • Academy Award for scientific and technical achievement
  • Origin: The UK
Born in the UK and raised in India, Thakkar is a software inventor. He was a part of the animation software development team for Shrek, which is just one of his many notable works. He shared his Academy Award with Richard Chuang.

He was awarded for his ‘groundbreaking design’ in the DreamWorks Animation Media Review System, a scalable film review platform that makes animation easier for the studio.

Cottalango Leon

  • Academy Award for scientific and technical achievement
  • Origin: Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu
Cottalango Leon is an Indian-American computer graphics technician born in Tamil Nadu. In 2016, he shared his Academy Award with Sam Richards and J Robert Ray.

He was awarded for developing Sony Pictures Imageworks itView technology, a digital 3D film review software.

Vikas Vinay Sathaye

  • Academy Award for scientific and technical achievement
  • Origin: Pune, Maharashtra
The Pune-born Vikas Vinay Sathaye received this honour for creating the Shotover K1 Camera System, a camera mount used for aerial filming. The technology allows the camera mount to be attached to a helicopter’s base, carrying the camera and lens; the system's goal is to prevent any vibrations from reaching the camera.

FAQs

What contributions have Indian Oscar winners made to cinema?

Oscar winners from India have made significant contributions to cinema, both in India and globally. Directors like Satyajit Ray have redefined storytelling with their masterpieces, while musicians like AR Rahman have revolutionised film music with innovative compositions.

Costume designers like Bhanu Athaiya have brought characters to life through their meticulous craftsmanship, and technicians like Resul Pookutty have pushed the boundaries of sound engineering. These individuals have earned international acclaim and inspired generations of filmmakers and artists in India and beyond.

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