Nitin Chandrakant Desai (1965-2023) was an Indian art director, production designer, actor, and producer. He is prominently known for his exceptional set designs and visual aesthetics that have been featured in numerous Bollywood films including ‘Lagaan’ (2001), ‘Devdas’ (2002), ‘Swades’ (2004), ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ (2008), and ‘Panipat’ (2019). On 2 August 2023, he died after committing suicide. Hindustan Times
Nitin Chandrakant Desai was born on Friday, 6 August 1965 (age 57 years; at the time of death) at Bhagwat Multispeciality Hospital in Dapoli, Maharashtra. He completed his schooling at a Marathi medium school named Wamanrao Muranjan High School (now Wamanrao Muranjan Madhyamik Vidyalaya & Junior College) in Mulund, Mumbai. He later studied photography at the J.J. School of Art and L.S.Raheja School of Arts, in Mumbai.
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Hair Colour: Salt & Pepper
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is Chandrakant Ganpat Desai. His mother’s name is Meena Chandrakant Desai. She is a film producer. He had a brother and a sister. His sister’s name is Vaishali.
Wife & Children
He was married to Naina Nitin Desai. She is a film producer. He is survived by a son and a daughter. His daughter, Mansi Desai, is a production coordinator at Mold3D.
He followed Hinduism.
Art Director and Production Designer
Nitin Chandrakant Desai started his career by joining Mumbai’s Film City Studios in May 1987, where he quickly transitioned from taking 2-D still photos to working in the 3-D field of art direction. In the same year, he worked as a fourth assistant to renowned art director Nitish Roy on the television film ‘Tamas’ (1987). He worked as a fourth assistant on the TV series ‘Kabir’ for five and a half years. In 1991, he assisted the art director Nitish Roy on the TV series ‘Chanakya’ for the first 25 episodes, and from the 26th episode onwards, he took over as an independent art director.
In 1993, he debuted in the film industry as an art director with the film ‘Bhookamp;’ however, he got recognition after working on the film ‘1942: A Love Story’ (1944). In 2008, he created two sets for the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ including a different set for the scene ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati.’ He worked as an art director and production designer in various blockbuster films including ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ (1999), ‘Lagaan’ (2001), ‘Devdas’ (2002), ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ (2006), and ‘Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal’ (2007).
Apart from films and TV series, he also worked as a production designer for the Hindi language web series ‘Paurashpur’ (2020), which premiered on ZEE5 and ALT Balaji.
Nitin Chandrakant Desai turned into a film producer with the devotional film ‘Desh Devi Maa Ashapura’ in 2003. In 2008, he produced the Marathi TV show ‘Raja Shivchatrapati’ on Star Pravah, which later became one of the super hit shows of that time. The show was re-broadcast in April 2020 during the lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2009, he produced the Hindi-language historical drama TV series ‘Chittod Ki Rani Padmini Ka Johur,’ which aired on Sony Entertainment Television. In 2011, he produced the Marathi-language biographical film ‘Balgandharva.’ He also directed the film. He later produced a reality TV show ‘Marathi Paul Padte Pudhe,’ which is based on the concept of the show is similar to ‘America’s Got Talent.’ In 2018, he produced the Marathi film ‘Truckbhar Swapna.’
Nitin Chandrakant Desai debuted as an actor with the Hindi TV show ‘Hum Sab Ek Hain’ (1998) on SAB TV. He played his first lead role in the Marathi language film ‘Hello Jai Hind!’ in 2011.
In the same year, he played the role of Lokmanya Tilak in the Marathi-language biographical film ‘Balgandharva.’
Alleged of cheating advertisement agencies
In 2018, Rakesh Shinde, owner of Vihang Digital World filed a complaint against Desai at Vartak Nagar police station for not paying him Rs 51.7 lakh for three months of work. He also alleged that the cheques he received from Desai were either bounced or from bank accounts that were no longer active. However, in an interview, Desai denied the allegations and said that he will take legal action against Shinde for making false allegations against him. He said,
the complainant had made such false allegations earlier too. We will take legal action against him.”
Reportedly, there was one more complaint against him in the same case. Another complainant, Dev Kate, owner of an advertising agency, has claimed that Desai owes him Rs 1 crore for work that was completed. Hindustan Times
Awards, Honours, Achievements
Screen Award for Best Art Direction
- For ‘1942: A Love Story’ in 1994
- For ‘Khamoshi: The Musical’ in 1996
- For ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ in 1999
- For ‘Josh’ in 2000
- For ‘Lagaan’ in 2001
- For ‘Gandhi, My Father’ in 2008
Filmfare Award for Best Art Direction
- For ‘1942: A Love Story’ in 1995
- For ‘Khamoshi: The Musical’ in 1997
- For ‘Devdas’ in 2003
National Film Award for Best Art Direction
- For ‘Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’ in 1999
- For ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ in 2000
- For ‘Lagaan’ in 2002
- For ‘Devdas’ in 2003
IIFA Best Art Direction Award
- For ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ in 2009
Maharashtra State Film Award for Best Art Direction
- For ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’ in 2009
Genie Award for Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design
- Nominated for ‘Such a Long Journey’ in 1998
On 2 August 2023, he was found dead at his N D Studio in Karjat, Maharashtra. He, reportedly, committed suicide by hanging. The Times of India After his death, media reports emerged stating that Desai’s death was the result of suicide caused by a severe financial crisis. He was burdened with a debt of Rs 180 crore from a finance company called CFM. Desai had taken loans by mortgaging a total of 42 acres of land and other properties after entering into loan agreements in 2016 and 2018. Later, he found himself unable to repay the loans, leading to substantial debt. CFM attempted to recover the loan amount from Desai but was unsuccessful. Consequently, the company assigned Edelweiss Asset Reconstruction to handle the recovery of all the outstanding loan accounts. Despite several efforts, Edelweiss also couldn’t retrieve the specified amount. As a last resort, the company utilized the SARFAESI Act to reclaim the mortgaged land by confiscating the property. Subsequently, Edelweiss filed a petition with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCTL), and the court approved the process of debt recovery. India Today Media reports on 3 August 2023 indicated that he had left an audio suicide message shortly before his demise at 4 am on 2 August 2023. In the message, he mentioned the names of four individuals whose contact numbers were saved in his mobile phone’s contact list. The Times of India
- In 2005, he established ND Studios, located on the outskirts of Mumbai in Karjat. The studio covers an extensive area of 52 acres (21 hectares). However, Reliance Entertainment later acquired a 50 per cent stake in the studio for approximately Rs 1.50 billion. The studio is known for its extensive and grand sets, making it an appealing destination for both domestic and international productions.
- After Reliance Entertainment acquired a 50% stake in Big ND Studio, the US-based film studio ’20th Century Fox’ signed a 10-year agreement to rent four floors at the studio. Walt Disney has also signed a deal to shoot at the same studio for 10 weeks.
- On 7 May 2021, a massive fire broke out at ND Studio at the set of the film ‘Jodha Akbar,’ which was preserved by the studio authorities for the tourist attraction. The fire damaged a large part of the film set. In an interview, Desai talked about the loss occurred due to fire and said,
Due to the lockdown there were hardly any people in the studio premises. Till the time the security guards realised, it was too late. Isme toh hamari koi galti nahi hai, lekin hamare aankhon ke saamne hamara sapna jalta dekhna pada.” The Times of India
- In 2022, the four-day mega event ‘Maha-Utsav’ was held at Desai’s ND Studios from April 28th to May 1st, celebrating Maharashtra’s rich culture, art, tradition, taste, and vibrant colours in honour of the 62nd anniversary of the state’s formation.
- In April 2022, Nitin Chandrakant Desai turned his ND Studio into a Bollywood Theme Park, that consists of seven different film sets and lots of fun activities to enjoy. The park was opened to the public in April 2022, where they can come and recreate famous scenes from Bollywood films and be a part of iconic Bollywood setups. In an interview, Desai talked about making of Bollywood Theme Park and said,
Whenever I saw people rushing for autographs of filmstars or trying to walk, speak or sing like them, I felt there should be some facility wherein people would have an opportunity to turn their dreams to reality, at least for a short while. This thought led me to develop this theme park.” The New Indian Express
- Apart from ND Studio, he is associated with some more companies including KND Investments and Finance Pvt. Ltd., ND Holdings Pvt. Ltd., Namaskaar Art Studios Pvt. Ltd., and ND S Art World Pvt. Ltd.