Come Fall in Love - The DDLJ Musical in 2022

Although the Theatre Adaptation Gives Audiences a Beautiful Glimpse of the 1995 Indian Hindi-Language Film, the Twists Give more Hollywood than Bollywood  

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

The cast of Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical, 2022. Photo by Jim Cox.

The Old Globe has gotten out of its comfort zone since the comeback from the pandemic and has presented its audiences bolder Shakespeares, stunning new pieces, and some seasoned ones that are defying a new-ish theatre model. Works like the 2022 revival of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, the play Mala with performances both in English and Spanish, and the San Diego stop of the Freestyle Love Supreme tour.

With a history of incubating musicals pre-Broadway, I believe the opening of Come Fall in Love, the musical theatre version based on the 1995 Indian Hindi-language, -also musical- romance film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, is the biggest one yet. DDLJ marked the directorial debut of Aditya Chopra at the tender age of 23. The film was produced by Yash Raj Films, Chopra's father's production company. The Globe in association with YRF and Chopra as the director of the musical has ventured into the world of Bollywood producing this premiere that will get ready for the great white way once it is done with its San Diego run.

The plot of the movie is set in London. Simran Singh was brought up in a strict household and her father Baldev is very conservative. 20 years back he promised his best friend Ajit that Simran will marry his son Kuljeet who lives in Punjab, India. The daughter is not having it and does not want to marry a dude she has never met but wants to still honor her family. There is a train trip to Europe with her friends and she begs her dad to let her go before she gets married and loses her freedom. Dad lets her and on the trip, she meets Raj raised totally different that Simran, and the love adventure begins like your usual rom-com.

So... the westernized plot for the musical swapped the London scenario for Boston and Raj, the Indian, liberal heartthrob was swapped by Roger aka "Rog" (I see what y'all did there)  a rich white kid that goes to Harvard, the same school as Simran (Shoba Narayan). Rog (Austin Colby) is the pretty boy, partier that sleeps during class and Simran is the dedicated, nerdy student that is fascinated by Einstein and is working on a thesis about love. In this version, she is still promised to Kuljit (Kinshuk Sen) (name changed a bit I am guessing because of phonetics and practicality) and will go back to India to marry him. There is a trip to Europe with Simran's friends Cookie (Hannah Jewel Kohn) and Ben (Juice Mackins) and even though Rog and Simran know of each other, the European adventure sparks the love. Once back in Boston Simran must travel to India to marry, Coincidentally, Rog's mom Minky (Kate Loprest), is going on a luxurious trip to check out an investment opportunity in an Indian resort-type place that is run by Kuljit's dad Ajit (Vishal Vaidya) and Simran's dad Baldev (Irvine Iqbal). Once everybody is in the same time zone, Simran wants to elope with Rog but he wants to do right by her and win over her dad which he is unaware of meeting during a drunken encounter earlier that year.

(from left) Irvine Iqbal as Baldev, Shoba Narayan as Simran, and Rupal Pujara as Lajjo in Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical, 2022. Photo by Jim Cox.

Alrighty! Wow, I worked up a sweat... I want to start off by saying that I loved the look of it all: the cast, the costume design by Linda Cho, and the scenic design by Tony Award winner Derek McLane which in most scenes, opens and closes via a shrinking black square that totally gave action, cartoon, adventure, vibes, I consider it adds tone to the story in a very cool and creative way. There are a couple of scenes and a song regarding pigeons with Baldev which is a metaphor for where is home? where does one belong, and the feeling of not recognizing the nostalgia wrapped around where one comes from. In those pigeon scenes, there are mechanical or robotized birds that Baldev feeds. Both song and scenes are very touching and I found it to be a beautiful symbolism.  

The book and lyrics are by Nell Benjamin and the music is by Vishal Dadlani and Sheykhar Ravjiani. I believe the songs in the musical are a direct translation of the ones in the movie and as with all new musicals, many of the songs need tweaking. The first act does too as it is a bit long and it does not compare with the second which is fire. It is landed, rounded, harmonious, and has more bilingual dialogue and lyrics with beautiful songs like "I Give You the World" where there is a mother-daughter moment with Simran and her mom Lajjo (Rupal Pujara). Even though I do not speak the language I greatly appreciated it because it gives it a lot of heart and seeing audience members who do understand the language and have their moment, just embodies the magic that wraps the meaning of the performing arts. 

This is a high-paced musical, heavily choreographed with people up in the air, circus moves, and beyond. Kate Loprest as the mouthy, independent, no-nonsense business mogul and mom Minky, is striking with great vocals, very funny, and an amazing performer that steals the show from scene to scene. Some of which are a fun tug with the crushing Kinshuk Sen as Kuljit who is also very funny with a beautiful voice and serious dance moves.

The choreographer is Rob Ashford and Shruti Merchant is the associate choreographer and responsible for the amazing Indian Dances. I do not know what the intricacies of the billing are, but I believe both their names should be mentioned in parallel. 

Shoba Narayan's performance as Simran is tremendous. I did feel that she gasped for air at times while singing but again, it is so high-paced and demanding that it could be tricky to juggle it all. Austin Colby as Rog aside from looking like a Ken doll and having abs for several lifetimes which is quite distracting, proved not to be just a "pretty face" as he does pull his weight in the vocal department, keeping up the high pace and delivering flawless choreography.

Austin Colby as Roger and Shoba Narayan as Simran in Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical, 2022.
 Photo by Jim Cox.

The roles of the Indian characters are complex. People that are dealing with living in a country that is not theirs, honoring and keeping their traditions but getting to a point where they do not feel 100% in their country or the States. With a child that was born and raised in Boston and, is American. There is a constant to sort of fight that aspect instead of embracing it. There are a couple of lines referring to this that stood out to me, one from a dialogue between fathers Baldev and Ajit where Ajit asks him "I hope she is not too westernized" speaking of Simran. How Simran says that her father taught her "Be twice as good to get half as far" when being an immigrant. Although true, I find it problematic because it feeds a constant US propaganda instead of embracing and highlighting the success stories of immigrants, how is the narrative going to change if we continue to cater to it?. 

There is also a line that made me do a double turn where Rog questions Simran's arranged marriage and calls it "barbaric". I get it from the perspective of the character but again, from the story? Is it shading the Indian tradition? could it be worded differently?. In all honesty, I find it all to be SUPER complex and we can draft a whole B-side thesis to the one Simran is working on.  

Seeing all that diversity, dance and language onstage truly touched my heart yet, the big question is, why did the character Raj not survive the musical theatre version? how would it have looked if Raj remained Indian instead of being gentrified to cater to a white audience? or giving the benefit of the doubt, that was the creative reason behind it? I understand it is an adaptation and one that is coming almost 30 years later. But I believe it would be bigger and more statement-packed, staying true to the essence of the movie and really embracing diversity, involving audiences in bold storytelling. Audiences too come from different cultures, backgrounds, and in all shades. In this new era of theatre, it is time to recognize and follow up on that.

Come Fall in Love- The DDLJ Musical is currently playing until October 23. For ticket prices and performance times please click here

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