'For me, Nitin Chandrakant Desai will always be associated with masti-mazaak.
Madhur Bhandarkar is in shock. The National Award winning- film-maker finds his hard to believe that Art Director Nitin Chandrakant Desai is no more.
They collaborated on four films together -- Traffic Signal, Fashion, Jail, Indu Sarkar .
Speaking to Rediff.comRoshmila Bhattacharaya, Madhur says, "I met him just two months ago, when Ashutosh (Gowariker) and I had attended his daughter's wedding at his ND Studio. He was so happy that day. When I, in my characteristic way, exclaimed, 'Kya jalwa hai!', he quipped with a laugh, 'Beti ki shaadi hai, jalwa to banta hai'."
I just got the news that Nitin Chandrakant Desai, a man who was always so full of energy and life, is gone.
It is shocking!
I met him just two months ago, when Ashutosh (Gowariker) and I had attended his daughter's wedding at his ND Studio, on the outskirts of Mumbai.
There were at least a thousand people present, stars like Hemaji (Malini), artists from the Marathi film industry, and technicians in plenty.
He was so happy that day.
When I, in my characteristic way, exclaimed, "Kya jalwa hai!", he quipped with a laugh, "Beti ki shaadi hai, jalwa to banta hai."
I told him frankly, "Dada, I have no budget"
Our friendship dates back to 2005 when he designed the sets of Traffic Signal.
I admired him for his opulent sets for the films of Ketan Mehta, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and, of course, Aamir (Khan) and Ashutosh's Lagaan.
He admired my work in Chandni Bar, Satta, Page 3, Corporate.
I went to him with Traffic Signal, which I made on just Rs 4 crore and told him frankly, "Dada, I have no budget."
He told me not to worry, he would create the whole look for me at his ND Studio.
Except for one small portion in Bandra, we shot the whole film at the studio.
I was there for 35 days, in hot, sunny, May, and together we made a film which still has people wondering, "Where did you shoot?"
For Fashion, I wanted to create some jalwa!
A year later, there was Fashion, a very different film.
This time I wanted to create some jalwa as this film was set in the glamour world.
I even had a song underlining that Fashion ka jalwa.
But again, I confessed that I didn't have a large budget.
He created a dozen ramps sets for me at the studio, including the pyramid in the climax.
We even shot the Jalwa and Marjawaansongs there.
He was brilliant!
Jail in 2009 was a prison film and I went to him with pictures of Yerwada and Thane jails.
Knowing that I would want something that was artistic yet realistic, he actually went to check out some real prisons before building one for me at ND Studio where we shot 80 per cent of the film.
He turned the Traffic Signal set into Connaught Place for Indu Sarkar
Our last collaboration was Indu Sarkar in 2017.
It was a period political film, set in Delhi during the Emergency, between 1975 and 1977.
I had a budget of just Rs 6.50 crore.
Once again, he came to my rescue.
He turned the Traffic Signal set into Connaught Place of 1975-1976.
It looked so real, with Impalas and TVS scooters, that even I was amazed.
We shot the entire film in ND Studio, across more than 60 locations.
He created everything, from a printing press and a police chowky to a hotel and Indira Gandhi's residence.
He even worked on the details of the political rallies you see in the film.
If I have ever seen Nitin quiet and even slightly tense, it was because his mind was working overtime, wondering how to access certain props from that period.
It gave him and us so much joy when he got us the Chicago Radio logo.
To date, even fellow colleagues from the industry ask me how I was able to recreate the period so beautifully.
It was because of Nitin Chandrakant Desai's jalwa. He was an invaluable contributor to all my four films.
He told me we should do something big together
He was very appreciative of my most recent film, India Lockdown, which brought to the screen the troubles every section of society faced during the pandemic when the entire country had come to a grinding halt.
He was very enthused by the encouraging response to the film and when we spoke at his daughter's wedding reception, he told me we should do something big together.
I promised him I would let him know.
We were in touch all along, through WhatsApp texts and calls, though we didn't meet after that.
I remember how khush he was that day.
For me, Nitin Chandrakant Desai will always be associated with masti-mazaak.
Even before I entered the room, I knew he was there because I could hear his booming laughter and his jokes.
I still can't believe a man like him is no more.