After a preliminary report of the autopsy conducted at Mumbai’s Sir J. J. Hospital late Wednesday confirmed Art Director Nitin Chandrakant Desai’s cause of death ‘by hanging’, his associates and close friends are nagged by doubts that he may have actually ‘planned’ his suicide in the past few days.
The detailed report of the autopsy conducted by a team of four medicos is likely to be made available later.
A close family friend of Desai said that he got a panic call from a security personnel about the shocking development around 9 a.m. on August 2.
“I immediately rushed to the N. D. Art World Pvt. Ltd. studio premises. From a window, we saw Desai’s body hanging by a rope from the ceiling at a considerable height on a huge stage which is used for shooting purposes,” said the friend, declining to be identified.
For a few moments, the friend contemplated breaking inside to untie and save Desai, but he first called the police which advised him against any such rash action.
“Even a doctor I had summoned reached by then and he also felt that since this could be a homicide, not to touch anything till the police teams reached there,” he added.
Another associate Babu More, who landed there soon afterwards claimed that a couple of days earlier, Desai had left behind a ‘recorded suicide message’ in which he has named certain persons who may have allegedly abetted his suicide.
However, despite repeated attempts Raigad Superintendent of Police Somnath Gharge remained unavailable for his comments in the sensitive matter.
Desai had reportedly told an aide to come ‘the next morning and look for the recorded message’ and then hand it over to the concerned persons, according to More.
Though the Raigad Police have kept mum on the recorded message, the studio staffers are hoping that it may be probed to unravel the real motives behind Desai’s extreme step.
The Raigad Police have initiated an investigation from multiple angles, including financial, external or business pressures and other aspects of Desai’s suicide on Wednesday.
Desai’s last rites shall be performed at the studio premises on Friday (Aug. 4) as desired by him, after his son and two daughters reach here from the US.
“The financial troubles had started in late-2019 and early 2020, and the situation became terrible after the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns that paralysed shootings here, and the situation has not normalised even now,” rued the friend.
Troubled over the repayment issues of his massive loan of Rs 181-crore, which had accumulated to over Rs 250-crore, Desai reportedly struggled to make ends meet, particularly on the professional front and the studio.
“The iconic studio is well-known in Raigad and situated in a picturesque area… Around 400-500 tourists troop down to the premises daily, they pay a small entry fee and are taken on a tour in buses, as is the case with most famous studios worldwide,” said the friend.
This generated sufficient revenues to pay all the rentals, bills and salaries of around 75-odd staffers, as Desai shuttled between his home in Powai (Mumbai) and the Raigad studio, and occasionally his birthplace at Dapoli (Ratnagiri).
More and others dismissed speculative theories that Desai was apparently toying with the idea of shutting down a part of the studio or commercially exploiting the rest to generate revenues, claiming “he was absolutely passionate about the studio he set up in 2005.”
Now, Desai has left behind an impressive artistic legacy, a huge virtually unutilised asset which is already being coveted in some quarters and an uncertain future for the 75-odd staffers at the studio.