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Neha Sharma is a revelation in Aafat-e-Ishq, says Indrajit Nattoji

The remake of the Hungarian film Liza, The Fox-Fairy, is set in a small town in the Hindi heartland.

Roushni Sarkar

Artist-turned-director Indrajit Nattoji's upcoming Zee5 original film Aafat-e-Ishq, starring Neha Sharma, is a dark dramedy set in a small town in the Indian heartland. The film, featuring Amit Sial, Namit Das, Deepak Dobriyal and Ila Arun, is a remake of the award-winning Hungarian fantasy film Liza, The Fox Fairy (2015).

Aafat-e-Ishq is Nattoji’s second feature film after the Kay Kay Menon-starrer Aagey Se Right (2009). "Aafat-e-Ishq is the story of a young woman’s quest for true love where she finds herself the prime suspect in a series of deaths while an ancient curse looms large. The story has fantasy elements with a whodunit twist," said the director.

The filmmaker said that the teams at Zee Studios and Zee5 have been very supportive of his vision. "I looked for a story writer and not a film writer. The idea was to bring in a fresh storytelling style for the adaptation. I finally collaborated with Neha Bahuguna on the script and came up with an ‘original’ script for Aafat-e-Ishq, which was more an adaptation than a ‘remake’ of Liza," said the director.

The Zee Studio Originals team had acquired the rights to the Hungarian film. The director loved the film for its quirky black humour and because it connected with some of the story-telling genres that he has always been a fan of, including fantasy, burlesque and romantic comedy.

The original film is set in 1970s Hungary in the backdrop of an emerging consumerist society. In order to make a convincing adaptation, the director decided to set the film in a diametrically opposite universe: the quintessential Indian heartland. "The challenge was to reinterpret an East-European story to that of the small-town Hindi heartland. To minimise Liza’s influence on our script, I only saw the film twice. Once as an audience and the second time as a filmmaker,” said Nattoji.

The film was shot in extremely challenging times, at the height of the pandemic. The director said, “The shoot was possible because of the incredible Zee Studios production team and a stellar cast, who believed in the film and was completely dedicated."

While working with the cast, Nattoji found Neha Sharma to be a revelation. "She is very different from her social media persona. She is a dedicated and intelligent actor and she completely transformed herself into the character of my protagonist, Lallo," commented Nattoji.

However, Dobriyal, Sial and Das were the director’s first and only choices for the characters of Vikram, Prem Gunjan and Atmaram respectively. "When all of them came together, the set was one big happy family with constant laughter, fulfilling conversations and incredible performances," said Nattoji, adding, "Ila Arunji, at her age, brought on to the set a certain fearless and inspiring energy. I learned a lot from her."

Nattoji hopes that the film catches the audience’s imagination and succeeds in entertaining them as they emerge from the devastating pandemic.

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