Creditors’ role in Nitin Desai’s death will be probed: Fadnavis

Congress leader and former CM Ashok Chavan calls for a thorough probe, urges the State government to take over the late art director’s studio

August 03, 2023 08:06 pm | Updated 08:14 pm IST - Pune

An ambulance carrying the mortal remains of Art Director Nitin Desai to J.J. Hospital Mumbai passes by at Navi Mumbai, in Raigad district, on August 2, 2023.

An ambulance carrying the mortal remains of Art Director Nitin Desai to J.J. Hospital Mumbai passes by at Navi Mumbai, in Raigad district, on August 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Maharashtra Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis on August 3 said the State government would probe the role of a private lending firm in connection with the death of acclaimed Bollywood art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai.

“Desai, through sheer talent, had done work to make the Marathi-speaking man proud. We will probe if creditors had applied pressure to take over Desai’s studio, whether he was under stress, or was any illicit interest applied in his case? While we cannot say today, the State government will also explore legal options on how Desai’s studio can be taken over,” Mr. Fadnavis said, adding all angles would be probed in the case.

Mr. Fadnavis was responding to Bandra West MLA Ashish Shelar, who demanded that the ambit of the probe into Desai’s death be widened, and his demise not be treated only as a case of accidental death.

Mr. Shelar said that Desai had taken a loan of ₹180 crore, which rose to ₹252 crore.

According to an insolvency petition filed in a bankruptcy court last week, Desai’s company had defaulted on a ₹252 crore loan to its financial creditor, ECL Finance, a leading Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) promoted by the Edelweiss Group.

“This brings the functioning of the lending system of [Indian businessman and CEO of Edelweiss group] Rashesh Shah and his Edelweiss company in the spotlight. Edelweiss ARC (asset reconstruction company) is behaving like a modern moneylender. While Nitin Desai took the extreme step and the Khalapur police have registered it as an ‘accidental death’, the ambit of the probe into his death ought to be widened to investigate how Edelweiss ARC operates, the methods of loan recovery, and their rates of interest. If need be, a special team ought to be constituted,” Mr. Shelar said.

Also read | Post-mortem report confirms art director Nitin Desai died due to hanging

Desai was known for his work as art director in several major films, including Lagaan, Jodhaa Akbar and Devdas.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator further said that it was tragic that a Marathi-speaking man, who had been feted with four national awards and made a name for himself in the field of art direction with his talent and accomplishments, should meet such an end.

Similarly, Congress leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said it was unfortunate that a great artist from Maharashtra had died in such a tragic manner, and urged the State government to take over the late Desai’s studio.

“His death is very sad indeed. It appears that Desai was under severe mental stress. He was a person, who through sheer hard work and talent, had carved a niche for himself in Bollywood. A thorough probe ought to be conducted into the circumstances surrounding his death,” Mr. Chavan said.

He further said that instead of other parties auctioning Desai’s studio, the government ought to consider taking it over and developing it.

Desai (57), was found dead on the premises of N.D. Studios, which he owned, in Karjat in the State’s Raigad district on Wednesday, a week short of his 58th birthday.

A post-mortem was conducted on his body by a team of four doctors at the State-run J.J. Hospital in Mumbai on Wednesday night, senior police officials said on Thursday.

According to the post-mortem report, the death was due to hanging, Somnath Gharge, Raigad Superintendent of Police, said. The body has been kept at the J.J. Hospital and would be handed over to Desai’s family on Friday (August 4), he said.

Desai’s last rites are to be performed at N.D. Studios on Friday.

Those who require assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts may contact Aasra (022-27546669) or the Vandrevala Foundation (18602662345/18002333330).

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