'His time had not come, he went away before his time was up.'
Nitin Chandrakant Desai's untimely demise has left Shrabani Deodhar heartbroken.
The National Award-winning writer, director and producer knew him from when he was assisting art director and production designer Nitish Roy.
Her husband, cinematographer Debu Deodhar, was instrumental in getting Nitin his first break in 1991.
Over the next three decades, she has seen him grow into not only a much-feted art director and production designer, but also a producer and a director whose work impressed her.
They spoke less than a week ago and had planned to meet soon.
"Good people go away too soon," Shrabani tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya.
He laughed, saying, "Tai, we are getting connected"
I spoke to Nitin Dada just six-seven days ago and he sounded absolutely fine and normal.
Actually, I dialed him by mistake.
One of my assistants also called Nitin and that's how I came to call him.
This had happened a couple of times earlier and when I apologised, he laughed, saying, "Tai, we are getting connected."
He always called me "tai" and treated me like an elder sister.
This time, on realising my mistake, I quickly disconnected.
He called back.
Once again, we shared a laugh and I told him we needed to meet in person now, it had been too long.
He promised we would.
I never imagined that would be our last call.
Mrignayanee was his first break, my husband recommended him to Amol Palekar
I knew him from when he was assisting art director and production designer Nitish Roy.
Nitish da was also a genius and Nitin was his obedient student.
We worked together briefly on Amol Palekar's TV show, Mrignayanee.
The 1991 period romance was Nitin's first break as an independent art director since Nitishda was busy.
My late husband, Debu Deodhar, was the DoP (Director of Photography) and he recommended Nitin's name to Amol.
The show revolves around a Rajput king, Man Singh, and his love for a tribal girl.
I was assisting Amol for a while and I still remember how beautifully Nitin brought the period to life on screen with his art work and the use of colours.
Soon after, he impressed me with his work in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 1942: A Love Story.
I also visited the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and I still remember those lovely jharokhas.
Nitin Dada was a visionary
I loved Balgandharva, the 2011 biopic of the legendary Marathi singer and stage actor Narayan Shripad Rajhans, famously known as Balgandharva.
The superhit film was directed by Ravi Jadhav and produced by Nitin Chandrakant Desai under his banner.
As creative director and programming head of Star Pravah, I bought the film for our channel.
I was also wowed by the 2012 Marathi film, Ajintha, which he wrote, produced and directed.
It brought to the screen the beauty of the Ajanta caves and the beautiful sculptures through the story of a British army officer, Major Robert Gill, who on a visit to India to paint historical monuments and sculptures, falls in love with a Maharashtrian Buddhist tribal girl Paro.
Nitin Dada was a visionary, with four National Awards to his credit, who over the last three decades, had come to be associated with superlative work, whatever be the project.
Even his assistants who passed out of the Nitin Chandrakant Desai School, are well-known art directors and production designers today.
Despite his phenomenal success he remained a middle-class Maharashtrian
Despite his phenomenal success he remained a middle-class Maharashtrian, never pompous, always grounded, cordial and respectful.
He was very attached to his mother and once, during a shoot, he had brought her for a puja, I was struck by how caring he was towards her.
When it came to work, he was very focused, open to suggestions and always trying to give you what you wanted.
It was a pleasure dealing with him.
Debu had shot an ad at his ND Studio.
I also called him up to explore the possibility of shooting my Marathi film Mogra Phulaalaa there.
We eventually shot in a bungalow, but as always, Nitin Dada was very warm.
We would keep bumping into each other, our last meeting was just after the pandemic.
I don't remember where we met, but I can still hear his voice, asking, "Tai, kashi ahes tu? (How are you, sister?). I miss Dada (Debu), he went away too soon."
Now, Nitin is gone, good people go away too soon.
But in his case what hurts is that his time had not come, he went away before his time was up.
I don't want to speculate on the reasons, I can only say that this man, so full of life and ideas, has left me heartbroken.