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Aditya Chopra explains how he reimagined DDLJ as a Broadway musical

“I first conceived the story of DDLJ (even before it was called DDLJ) as a Hollywood love story of a white American man and an Indian woman. My main motivation at that time was to present Indian culture and values to a global audience”, says Aditya Chopra

IANS | New Delhi |

‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ (DDLJ) hitmaker and Yash Raj Films (YRF) boss Aditya Chopra’s musical ‘Come Fall In Love’ is set to open at The Old Globe in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, on September 14. The musical, according to its makers, is a “celebration of inclusivity and diversity in a world that is getting increasingly polarised”.

In a statement, Chopra explained at length the motivation for the film. “I first conceived the story of DDLJ (even before it was called DDLJ) as a Hollywood love story of a white American man and an Indian woman. My main motivation at that time was to present Indian culture and values to a global audience,” he said.

“Years later, as I reimagine the story as a Broadway musical, my mainstay is still the same, showcasing Indian culture to a world audience. And the most powerful way to depict a country’s culture and values is to see it from the perspective of someone who does not belong to the same culture. That is the starting point of ‘Come Fall In Love’ (CFIL), the story of Indian Simran, her culture and heritage, through the eyes of American Roger,” Chopra added.

He pointed out that CFIL was focused on Simran. “It is the story of Simran, an Indian American,” Chopra noted. “She’s at the centre of the musical’s story, as she struggles to balance her love for Indian tradition and her family with her love for Roger. He is a white American man who falls madly in love with Simran, and then falls in love with her culture and her country. He finds a new version of himself in India’s energy, values and way of life.”

CFIL, according to a press statement issued by its makers, has many firsts for India and Indians. “For the first time, an Indian director, Aditya Chopra, has made a debut on Broadway,” the statement said. “It is also the first Bollywood musical set to be on Broadway. It has Vishal Dadlani and Sheykhar Ravijani debuting too as composers. Shruti Merchant will do her first Broadway musical as associate choreographer.”

Chopra directs a cast of 30, which is led by Shoba Narayan (‘Simran’), a Bharatanatyam dancer and Broadway artiste who notably played Princess Jasmine in Broadway’s Aladdin, and British actor Austin Colby, who essays the character ‘Roger Mandel’. The creative team is studded with Emmy and Tony award winners and nominees, including Derek McLane (set design), Linda Cho (costumes), Japhy Wiedeman (lights) and Jessica Paz (sound).

Chopra made it abundantly clear that he was not directing DDLJ for Broadway. “I’m adapting it as ‘Come Fall In Love’ to tell the story of how powerful love is in unifying cultures, especially today. In 2022, the notion that DDLJ could be adapted to present a vision of diverse cultures coming together in a story that celebrates love and the power it has to unify everyone, moves me greatly,” Chopra said.

He continued: “For me, Austin Colby as Roger and Shoba Narayan as Simran are the perfect vehicles to drive home this message of cultural unification in a fragmented world. … ‘Come Fall In Love’ is not only my heartfelt vision of ‘love in every colour’, as the musical’s finale puts it, but a celebration of joy, togetherness and inclusivity in a divisive and an increasingly toxic world of intolerance. It is also my love letter to India and the Indian heritage we carry with us wherever we may be.”

Chopra added: “In making a new DDLJ for a new moment and a new audience, I have departed from some aspects of the film that our fans revere. But I believe that the heart of ‘Come Fall In Love’ beats with everything that is essential in DDLJ even as it speaks, sings and dances to this moment, in a different place and time, with hope, optimism and love.”

He emphasised that DDLJ has a special place in the hearts of all Indians and expressed the hope that every Indian would be proud that an adaptation of the cult classic film is Broadway-bound.

(For The Old Globe run, the musical begins performances on September 1 through October 16, 2022, with the official opening on Wednesday, September 14.)