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Is it possible to apply permissions to an item that's added /updated? I heard that using an eventreceiver is costly and takes more deployment time and effort. Also am doubtful about this approach where in eventreceivers, we can elevate the privileges of the web and site, if the end user who uploads doesn't have permission to break role inheritance for the currentlistitem. But in SP D workflow,I don't think there exists such an activity to use elevatedweb and elevatedsite.

So, is it possible to update an item and remove all permissions for the currentlistitem [except the author] and apply multiple permissions for the spgroups mentioned for this currentlistitem?

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Yes it is possible.

If current user don't have permission to remove and add permission then you will need to enable "App Step" for workflow.It is same as "RunWithElevatedPriviledge" in SharePoint Server Side Code.

Please follow below link for enable App Step in Designer workflow.

After enable it, We need to call HTTP request for remove item level permission and give permission to Author.

Please check below link for unique permission on ListItem.

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