Speculations on the founder of ND Studios being under huge financial stress are rife. “He had this energy that made us all believe that he could tackle anything as he had that fighting spirit. In hindsight, that was him putting up a brave front. Guess not everyone talks about their issues”, revealed a friend.
The 4-time National Award-winning production designer, worked with several prominent filmmakers on films like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Mangal Pandey, Bajirao Mastani, Lagaan, Jodhaa Akbar, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, to name a few. His work and friendship with Ashutosh Gowariker is particularly known. In a text message, Ashutosh told Bombay Times, “Stunned. Shocked. No Words. I am on my way to ND Studios, Karjat.”
Nitin’s close friend, director Madhur Bhandarkar was in a state of shock when he discovered this ill-fated incident. In a phone call with BT, he said, “Just 2-3 months ago, Ashutosh and I attended his daughter’s wedding in Karjat. It was an extremely joyous occasion. The wedding was celebrated on a grand scale. He was extroverted, laugh out loud, full of energy kind of person. He had this signature line, he would often ask me, “Kya jalwa ho raha hai teri life mein?” He was an extremely helpful and self-made man. He founded that massive studio on his own and didn’t come from an affluent family. That was solely based on his hard work, talent and goodwill. He was a middle-class guy and went through a lot of struggles and overcame them. Everyone loved him because he would help everyone. He was apolitical. From film sets, to constructing and designing stages for political rallies, Ganpati pandals… he did it all. I could never imagine him taking a drastic step like this. It’s an irreparable loss for the Indian film industry, to lose a great art director and a great human.”
Nitin Desai worked as an art director on ‘Fashion’
The two worked on four films together. Madhur recounts, “I did Traffic Signal, Fashion, Jail, and Indu Sarkar with him. I didn’t have a big budget for almost all these films but that never stopped him from giving his all. Traffic Signal was the first film to be shot in ND studios. When I asked him if he will work on my film, he was a top art director, and I was assisting Ram Gopal Varma. I felt lucky that he’d said yes. He was so happy for me when my film ‘Babli Bouncer’ was appreciated.”
Sheesh Mahal created in ND Studios for Bajirao Mastani
He created the opulence needed in Fashion, helped recreate Delhi in ND Studios for Indu Sarkar. That film barely had a budget of 6.5 Cr. We wrapped that shoot within 52 days at his studios and no one believed that we didn’t shoot in Delhi. He was from JJ School of art and his work was that good. He later expanded his studio to a Bollywood theme park so people could buy a ticket and explore it.”