Nitin Chandrakant Desai, the prominent Bollywood production designer of the Oscar-nominated music sports drama Lagaan, has died aged 57.
Desai was reportedly found dead at his studio in Karat, near Mumbai. The Indian Express and other local news agencies have reported police are initially suspecting suicide. Investigations are continuing.
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Desai was known for his colorful work on the 2001 blockbuster Lagaan and Devdas, the BAFTA-nominated Indian drama from a year later. During his long career he also worked on another Oscar-nominated feature, Salaam Bombay!, in 1988, and on 1942: A Love Story (1993), Hum Do De Choke Sanam (1999) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008) among others. He also designed the set for Kaun Banega Crorepati? in Slumdog Millionaire and worked as a producer on several films and TV shows. He also directed Hello Jai Hind! and Ajintha, the former of which he also acted in.
Desai set up ND Studios in Karjat, where he is believed to have been found, in 2005. He won four National Film Awards for Best Art Direction and three Filmfare Best Art Direction Awards, with his set design considered among the most historically accurate and intricate in Bollywood history.
His passing has had a profound effect on India’s TV and film community. A video posted on Twitter shows actor Suniel Shetty respond to a question during a press conference to say: “Heartfelt condolences to him and his family. All I know he was one of the most talented and humble art directors and one of the finest human beings.”
The Vaccine War director Vivek Agnihotri wrote on Twitter: “I am heartbroken and sad beyond control to learn about my dearest friend Nitin Desai’s death. A legendary Production designer, a visionary who made ND Studio… Nitin not only loved Pallavi and I, he always guided me even in films we didn’t do together. Why Nitin, why?”
Actor and Fear Factor – Khatron Ke Khiladi presenter Akshay Kumar said he was postponing the trailer launch of OMG 2 until tomorrow out respect.
“Unbelievably sad to know about the demise of Nitin Desai. He was a stalwart in production design and such a big part of our cinema fraternity. He worked on so many of my films… this is a huge loss. Out of respect, we are not releasing the OMG 2 trailer today. Will launch it tomorrow at 11am. Om Shanti,” he wrote on Twitter.
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