Mumbai:

A day after the death of noted art director Nitin Desai, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday said the role of a private lending company from which Desai had taken the loan will be probed. He said the probe will find out whether the company used to charge more interest and whether Desai was under stress. Fadnavis, who holds the home portfolio, told the Assembly that legal aspects will be considered in regard to how Desai's ND Studio in Karjat near Mumbai can be preserved or taken over by the government.

Renowned art director Nitin Desai, 57, who designed the grand set of films like "Jodhaa Akbar", "Lagaan" and TV shows "Kaun Banega Crorepati", was found hanging in his studio on Wednesday. Desai's company ND Art World Pvt Ltd had borrowed Rs 2016 crore through two loans from ECL Finance in 2018 and 185 and the repayment woes began in January 2020.

According to the insolvency petition filed in a bankruptcy court last week, ND Art World Pvt Ltd had defaulted on a loan of Rs 252 crore to its financial lender. ECL Finance is a leading NBFC, promoted by Edelweiss Group. Fadnavis was responding to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Ashish Shelar's demand that the issue should not be treated as just a case of accidental death. Under systemic question, Shelar demanded that Desai's death should not be seen as a mere case of accidental death, but should be dealt with from a larger perspective.

The BJP MLA said Desai made a name for himself in the field of art direction with his talent and achievements. "It is sad that Desai, a recipient of four National Awards, had to take this step. He had taken a loan of Rs 180 crore for ND Studios, which increased to Rs 252 crore. "Therefore, the matter should not be investigated as just accidental death, but a special team should be set up to look into the interest rate charged, the recovery process implemented by this company and many such issues," Shelar said. "Only then will Nitin Chandrakant Desai get justice," he said.

The BJP MLA also said he had information on two more cases against the "modern moneylender" and the details would be submitted to the Home Minister. Congress leader Ashok Chavan said the government should take control of Desai's studio instead of allowing it to be auctioned. "It will be a tribute to Nitin Desai," he said, responding to the demands, assuring a thorough probe into the matter.

Describing Desai as the pride of Marathi people, Fadnavis said, "Apart from films, he also designed themes for political events, state tableaux for the Republic Day parade in Delhi and also contributed to the beautification of ghats in Varanasi." Was it?"

In the Legislative Council, BJP member Pravin Darekar demanded an inquiry into the circumstances of Desai's death, saying desai had taken a loan of Rs 150 crore from financial institution Edelweiss but the amount rose to Rs 250 crore due to interest. Darekar said Desai had approached him to get help through the Mumbai District Bank, but his account had become a non-performing asset and the bank's limit for granting loans was only Rs 10-15 crore. Darekar said he called up Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and apprised him of Desai's financial woes.

Darekar said the chief minister helped and Desai got an extension on repayment of his loan. In the meantime, efforts were also made to see if they could get a loan from anywhere, he said. Darekar alleged, "Edelweiss should be investigated. The original loan was Rs 150 crore and the interest on it forced him (Desai) to commit suicide. When the process of confiscation of the studio started, his mental state was to embrace death.

Before committing suicide, Desai had recorded a voice message in which she had urged the state government to take over her studio and help promote Hindi and Marathi artistes. "This issue (circumstances leading to his death) should be investigated. My demand is that an inquiry be conducted into what was the nature of the loan, how he (Desai) was tortured... They had made a lump sum payment several times... Why didn't we pay attention?"

Congress MLC Ashok Jagtap supported Darekar's demand for an inquiry against the financial company. Shiv Sena MLC Sachin Ahir said instead of handing over Desai's ND Studios to a private entity, the state government should take control of it.

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