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Bhanu Athaiya, India’s first Oscar winner, dies age 91

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Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Contributors Manveena Suri, CNN

India’s first ever Oscar winner, costume designer Bhanu Athaiya, has died at the age of 91. Athaiya, dressed the casts of over 100 Bollywood movies and gained international acclaim for her work on the 1982 movie “Gandhi.”

Sunil Seth, chairman of the Fashion Design Council India said she has been a “torchbearer of design,” in a statement shared with CNN. “We, as a design fraternity, salute her excellence not just in cinema, but also in proving to the world, the huge role fashion plays to shape a personality, both on and off the screen,” he wrote.

Her daughter, Radhika Gupta, told The Times of India that her mother died in her sleep. Athaiya was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012.
Bhanu Athaiya, second from left, on the runway during Mumbai's Lakme Fashion Week in 2013.

Bhanu Athaiya, second from left, on the runway during Mumbai’s Lakme Fashion Week in 2013. Credit: Chirag Wakaskar/WireImage/Getty Images

Born in 1929 in Kolhapur, in Maharashtra state, Athaiya began designing movie costumes in the 1950s, working on a series of productions with Guru Dutt, one of the era’s most celebrated directors. She went on to collaborate with filmmakers including Raj Kapoor and Raj Khosla.

While she primarily worked on Bollywood movies, she produced costumes for director Conrad Rooks’ 1972 film “Siddartha,” an adaptation of the famed Hermann Hesse novel. But it was her work on Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi,” a biopic based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, that thrust her into the global spotlight.

Bhanu Athaiya pictured with

Bhanu Athaiya pictured with “Gandhi” director Richard Attenborough at the 55th Academy Awards. Credit: Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

At the 55th Academy Awards, Athaiya claimed the award for Best Costume Design (alongside her co-designer John Mollo), one of eight Oscars won by the movie that night. In her short acceptance speech, she said that the honor was “too good to believe,” before thanking Attenborough for “focusing world attention on India.”

Athaiya continued to work in the later decades of her life, receiving industry recognition for her rich visual take on 19th-century India in Ashutosh Gowariker’s critically acclaimed “Lagaan” Her work on the movie earned her Best Costume Design at India’s prestigious National Film Awards in 2002.

Following her death, tributes have flooded in from India’s art and entertainment worlds, with actor Aamir Khan, who starred in and worked with Athaiya in “Lagaan,” tweeting that she “beautifully combined accurate research and cinematic flair to bring to life the director’s vision.” Actress Kasturi Shankar meanwhile described Athaiya as a “legendary costume designer and pathbreaking woman.”
Politicians also took to social media to honor the late Oscar winner. MP Raj Babbar, a well-known actor before his election to parliament in 2015, wrote on Twitter that Athaiya “made costume design a classical art,” adding: “(I) was privileged to wear her designs in my initial films … Her demise is a personal loss.”

Top image caption: Costume designer Bhanu Athaiya backstage holding her Oscar, after winning the 1982 Academy Award for “Best Costume Designer” for her role in Gandhi.

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Protesters gather in Bangkok after PM snubs call to resign

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Demonstrators seeking to keep up pressure on the government ahead of Monday’s special parliament session.

Protesters have gathered in Bangkok, seeking to keep up pressure on the government one day ahead of a special session of Parliament called to try to ease political tensions.

The rally took place on Sunday at the busy Rajprasong intersection, in the heart of the capital’s shopping district, an area that usually draws large weekend crowds.

The rallies were called on Saturday night after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the protesters’ deadline to step down.

The protesters’ core demands include a more democratic constitution and reforms to the monarchy.

Public criticism of the monarchy is unprecedented in a country where the royal institution has been considered sacrosanct.

The protesters charge that Prayuth, who led a coup in 2014 as the army chief, was returned to power unfairly in last year’s general election because laws had been changed to favour a pro-military party.

The protesters also say that the constitution, written and enacted under military rule, is undemocratic.

Prayuth’s government called parliament into a session – expected to start Monday and last two days – in an effort to defuse weeks of almost daily protests.

“The only way to a lasting solution … is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process,” he said last week.

Prayuth also lifted a state of emergency on Thursday that he had imposed a week earlier that made the protest rallies illegal.

The protesters were not impressed by his efforts to appease them, declaring them insincere.

Several have noted on social media that the points of discussion submitted by the government for debate were not intended to deal with protesters’ concerns but were thinly disguised criticisms of the protests themselves.

The rallies were called Saturday night after PM Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the protesters’ deadline to step down [Mladen Antonov/AFP]

Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said the protesters are in full voice and reiterating their demands.

“There are thousands of protesters on the streets. The mood is more relaxed than we have seen in recent weeks. There are police here but they are standing back and directing traffic where they can. Authorities haven’t closed down the transport system, which they have done previously,” Cheng said.

Protest organisers have called for a march on Monday afternoon that will take them to the German Embassy in central Bangkok, far from the parliament complex which is on the outskirts of the city.

The march is apparently to draw attention to the protesters’ contention that King Maha Vajiralongkorn spends too much of his time in Germany.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Fighting continues, Baku issues Russia warning

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Armenia, Azerbaijan blame each other for continuation of the conflict as Aliyev warns Moscow not to get involved.

Fighting has continued on Sunday between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh with both sides blaming each other for blocking a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Armenia accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling civilian settlements on Sunday, a claim that Baku denied.

Azerbaijan said it was ready to implement a ceasefire provided Armenia withdrew its forces.

The clashes yesterday and today in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of Azerbaijan populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted foreign ministers of both countries in a new peace push on Friday.

The collapse of two Russia-brokered truces had already dimmed the prospect of a quick end to fighting that broke out on September 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Blame game

Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijani forces fired artillery on settlements in Askeran and Martuni in the night, while

Azerbaijan said its positions had been attacked with small arms, mortars, tanks, and howitzers.

“I am absolutely confident in the effectiveness of the peace negotiations but this also depends on the will of the Armenian side to take part in them,” said Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.

“Why can Azerbaijani and Armenian people live together in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries but not in Nagorno Karabakh?” he added in a Fox News interview reprinted by the Azertag News Agency.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian accused Baku of being “aggressively stubborn and destructive”.

On Sunday, the defence ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said it had recorded another 11 casualties among its forces, pushing the military death toll to 974 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted.

World powers want to prevent a wider war that draws in Turkey, which has voiced strong support for Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.

Differences over the conflict have further strained relations between Ankara and its NATO allies, with Pompeo accusing Turkey of fuelling the conflict by arming the Azerbaijani side. Ankara denies it has inflamed the conflict.

Armenian call for Russian involvement

Sarkissian, in comments reprinted by the Armenpress news agency, called on “global players” to step in immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire.

“In the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia is a trusted and pro-active mediator between the conflicting sides. Russia plays a crucial role here,” he said.

Azerbaijan’s Aliyev said it was “very hazardous” for Armenia to want Russian military support in the conflict and that third parties should not get involved militarily.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hoped that the US would help Moscow broker a solution to the conflict.

Azerbaijan says 65 Azerbaijani civilians have been killed and 298 wounded but has not disclosed its military casualties.

About 30,000 people were killed in a 1991-1994 war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenians regard the enclave as part of their historic homeland; Azeris consider it illegally occupied land that must be returned to their control.

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American Voter: Tom Noll

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US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Tom Noll

Age: 67
Occupation: Retired machinist
Residence: Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
Voted in 2016: Donald Trump
Will vote in 2020: Joe Biden
Top election issue: Coronavirus pandemic

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“I always vote. I never miss any elections … The primary was the first one we did mail-in ballots, because of COVID-19. When I was 18 I started. My parents always (voted) and I always did, too.

“I can’t remember ever missing one unless I was sick or something, but I don’t remember ever missing one. Even in local elections, when half the time there’s nobody running, I usually make it through to vote.”

What is your number one issue?

“I’m a Democrat my whole life and then last election I voted Republican for Trump. I was tired of the Clintons and all that.

“This election I don’t know what I’d say the top priority would be. I hope they fix this COVID-19 thing. One of them has to do something, whoever gets in there.”

Who will you vote for?

“I was undecided, but now I’ve voted for Biden.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“I had leaned towards Biden because he’s a local man. And he’s probably the only Democrat that could beat Trump.

“I didn’t like some of the stuff Trump was saying. Four years ago I voted for him, now I’m voting for Biden, it’s as simple as that. I think Biden’s gonna win, but it’s gonna be a close election and anything could happen.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“Except for the pandemic, yeah.”

What would you like to see change?

“I hope the Democrats or Republicans start getting along and we get some bills passed for the people, instead of always fighting over so many things. They’re always just fighting.

“The Democrats hate Trump and basically that’s it, they don’t like him. They don’t want him in there. I don’t know. They gotta live with it.”

“You know, a lot of presidents are not liked when they come in … I’d like to see more cooperation with Congress and the Senate. It seems like real quick they got along with this pandemic, and they gave out that stimulus money … But they didn’t get along real well after that.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“I don’t think there’s gonna be much. I’m hoping there is, but I don’t think there’s gonna be much. They have to change the whole structure out there in Washington. Get new people in there, new blood. They’re just all power-hungry people. They’re all millionaires. I mean all of them. All the congressmen. All the presidents through history.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“My immediate concern is this pandemic. I mean, it has the country half shut down. They gotta hopefully get some kind of vaccine or something, that’d be the immediate concern.”

“Once people get settled down, once people get back to work, it’ll solve the other problems with the unemployment. And also the Black Lives Matter, you know, [George Floyd] getting killed … They have to settle these race issues and the COVID-19.”

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