One of the most decorated art directors active today, Nitish Roy is the man who realised the visions of filmmakers of Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Kumar Shahani. Be it the sombre middle-class settings of Kharij (1982), creating the lively and authentic atmosphere of a brothel in Mandi (1983) or accentuating the grit of a crime drama like Parinda (1989), Nitish Roy was at home everywhere.
Graduating from the Government Art College in Kolkata, Roy initially found work at a carpenter’s workshop. Later he went on to work in advertising agency, and would work in over 5000 ad films throughout his career. Also interested in interior design, he would help set up his friends’ homes in his spare time. He also partook in several exhibitions and his work fetched him several prizes. Interested in cinema, he used to observe shoots in studios. This brought him his first opportunity to work in cinema.
His career began in spectacular fashion with Mrinal Sen’s Kharij which won him the National Award for Best Art Direction. He won the award again the next year for his work in Shyam Benegal’s Mandi. His work with Mrinal Sen continued to fetch him acclaim with the BFJA Award for Best Art Direction for Khandhar (1984). He shot Govind Nihalani’s tightly-knit drama Party(1984). Recreating Partition era Pakistan in Nihalani’s magnum opus Tamas (1988) was another feather in the cap for him. He continued working with Benegal in films like Trikaal(1985), Susman (1987), Bharat Ek Khoj (1988) and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (1993). Continuing to set new standards in realistic production design he worked in Ramesh Sharma’s political thriller New Delhi Times (1986) and Salaam Bombay! (1988). He also collaborated with Kumar Shahani’s in what is his most accessible film till date – Kasba (1989).
He stepped into the world of commercial cinema with Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s National Award-winning Parinda (1989). The following year, he bagged a Filmfare Award for his work in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s superhit Ghayal (1990). He won his third National Award for his compelling work in Gulzar’s Kshudit Pashan adaptation Lekin…(1991). Throughout the 90’s and 2000s, he worked in films like Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar (1992), Loafer (1994), Pukar (2000), Lajja (2001), Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (2005), Fanaa (2006), Halla Bol (2008), Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009) among others. In 2000, he achieved another landmark in his career by working on the production design of the Academy Award-winning Gladiator. He has also turned director for films like Ek Poshla Brishti (1991), Tobu Mone Rekho (1994) Jamai No 1 (1998), Heartbeat (1999) and Gosainbaganer Bhoot (2011).
The acclaimed art director remains active in the film industry and runs a design company called Nitish Roy Design & Media.