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Nitin Chandrakant Desai The Artiste Par Excellence Of Art Direction



It is  the  done-thing to praise people after their death. But Nitin Chandrakant Desai was truly  a child of  God. His epic vision, as manifested in  costume  dramas like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas  and Ashutosh Gowariker’s  Jodha Akbar never fell short of the spectacular, and yet the  epic vision remained restrained within the realms of  aesthetic propriety.

“For me it’s not about splashing colours  to  attract attention. Every frame has a relevance,  mood and compulsion,” he told me  once after I witnessed  the visual feast  that was Devdas.

He was right.  If we compare Nitin  Desai’s aesthetics in Bhansali’s Hum…Dil  De  Chuke Sanam and Devdas we  have the full spectrum  of  his talent.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali remembers  walking over  to Nitin Desai’s  home every morning to discuss the  sets of Devdas. Nitin’s mother  would make poha for them.

Nitin leaves behind an old  mother, a wife , two daughters and  a financial mess created by the losses incurred in the running of  ND Studios in Karjat on the outskirts of Mumbai which Nitin built from scratch in 2005.

“Sir,  it was my dream  project. I put everything  into it. I wanted  to construct a   studio  where  directors  could shoot their  films  without a  care about where to  look for what location. It was all there,” he once  told me.

Without a  shred  of doubt  Nitin Desai was the  most  accomplished  art director  of  Indian cinema. Unlike  many artistes Nitin was not  a duffer  in matters of  finances.

A  friend recalls him as  being very sharp with  money. “He knew how to handle the  financial aspect of his studio. It wasn’t as  if he lost money out of naivete  or anything.”

Then what happened? Why was  Nitin Desai  depressed over his finances?

“The green screen happened. Suddenly filmmakers  no longer required  the services of  an art director. Why  go to the trouble to build  elaborate  sets when it could all be done  in front of a green screen?Nitin lost out on a lot of good work ; filmmakers no longer needed his  lavish  studio in Karjat as much as they did earlier, due to the green-screen phenomenon. He also lost out on a  lot of work because  filmmakers didn’t need the services of  an  art director; the green screen  sufficed, ”reveals an old  associate  of  Desai

Ashutosh Gowariker who was  one  of  the last filmmakers to work in Panipat with Nitin Desai said after hearing of Nitin’s suicide,  “I am stunned, shocked. I’ve no words. I  am on the  way to ND Studios in Karjat.”

I remember spending the entire day at  ND Studios watching  my friend Sanjay Bhansali shooting.

When  Nitin Desai came to know  this he was  hurt. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? I’d have come to see you.”

I wish he had.


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