In Conversation: Akshaye Widhani, CEO of Yash Raj Films, On Come Fall In Love – The DDLJ Musical

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Akshaye Widhani YRF CEO

Noted director, Aditya Chopra, has always strongly felt that Broadway and Indian films are ‘two long lost lovers separated in time because of their intrinsic similarities. Both celebrate heart-warming stories and human emotions through music and dance’. Mr. Chopra has now made that a reality and merged Bollywood and Broadway by taking his much-loved film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) and transposing it as a musical theatre production. 

In Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical, Aditya Chopra takes a fresh and exciting new look at his landmark film, renewing it for a new generation and in a new medium. With an American audience in mind, he moves the action of the early scenes to America and not England as in the film.

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

Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical is the story of Simran, a young Indian-American woman whose future is set: an arranged marriage back in India to a family friend. But when she convinces her strict dad that she should spend a summer of freedom and fun in Europe, she falls for the charming Rog. Do Simran and Rog get their happy ever after? You will need to see the show to find out!

Featuring an eclectic cast of 30, Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical is produced by Yash Raj Films. Based on an original story by Chopra, the musical has a book and lyrics by Laurence Oliver, Award-winner Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde, Mean Girls), while top Indian songwriters Vishal Dadlani & Shekhar Ravjiani have composed the music. Tony and Emmy winner Rob Ashford (Frozen, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Boys from Syracuse) has choreographed the show with associate choreographer Shruti Merchant.

In this exclusive interview, Mr. Akshaye Widhani, CEO of Yash Raj Films, took time out of his busy schedule while in San Diego for the opening weekend to talk with Stacey about the exciting new show. Saying he was ‘terribly excited to talk about Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical, he revealed a bit about bringing the musical to the stage, was all praise about working with Vishal-Sheykhar, what he loves about Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical, and so much more!

Director Aditya Chopra Come Fall In Love

When you first learned that Mr. Chopra wanted to turn DDLJ into a musical theatre production for Broadway, what did you think?
Aditya shared the idea with a few of us in 2018. We were so excited when we first heard it. Then we thought, ‘Okay. Hold on. How does one even do this?’. You know, it is a first for any Indian studio. So he said, ‘react to the idea first, and then we’ll figure it out’. We loved the idea, and we got to work. It was exciting, but we also had a little bit of nervousness when we started, but then the team just got so much better and stronger, and here we are today. 

Of course, it is based on Mr. Chopra’s brilliant, iconic film DDLJ. Can you tell us about his process of changing up the story for the stage?
Yes, it is an adaption of DDLJ for the stage, and it is called Come Fall in Love. He did not want to make the same film into a stage play, which is why he went with the adaptation. So he made the creative changes he wanted to for this new adaptation. I don’t want to give too much away, of course. It is a beautiful adaption. It has fresh new music – 18 new songs. It has got a phenomenal cast and crew. The actors are just brilliant. We saw that over and over the last few nights, earning standing ovations at the show’s end! It has been really, really exciting and overwhelming for us to watch. 

L:Music composer Vishal Dadlani. Photo by Umed Jadeja. R: Music composer Sheykhar Ravjiani. Photo by Amit Ashar.

 Now I know the music for the show is composed by Vishal-Sheykhar; so how was it to work with them to bring these 18 songs to life?
Vishal-Sheykhar are people we have known for a very, very long time, and we have worked a lot together. They are just brilliant! To see what they have done with the music for the show is incredible. As two leading Indian composers, to be able to put up music like this for a show, hopefully for Broadway and on a global stage, and get people dancing on their feet is amazing. They have been great partners on this. A lot of the credit goes to them for the reactions and the response we are getting from that audience today.

It truly is Bollywood and Broadway meeting both in terms of story and music, but in the cast and crew, which I think is fabulous. Your thoughts on bringing these two worlds together to create Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical

 Yes, you are right. We got a team of people from all over the world working on it and bringing their own perspectives to it, their own aesthetics to it. From story, book, and lyrics, to music, to set design, to dance, to casting, to projection, and costumes, everybody from their own walk of life, coming together, allowing us to put up this show.

Nall Benjamin Come Fall in Love Book and Lyrics

The book and lyrics are by Nell Benjamin, who I am now a huge fan of. She was telling us a story that when we reached out to her to do this, she had already watched the film and had loved the movie. That sounds like a connection right there. Because sitting across from someone and talking to them, someone who already knows the world you come from. Someone who has experienced it and loved it – made it a lot easier to be able to tell our part of the story of India. Then being American, she already had those nuances, and she understood this culture just as well. So, it was an opportunity to blend both cultures. People will experience so much of what we have to share, which is love, music, laughter, song, and dance, which are a huge part of our lives, as you know – every Bollywood film has to have it. 

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

What makes you the proudest about Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical?
So, while I love the creative part of the show, what makes me the most proud is, I think, the representation. We have been able to marry two cultures seamlessly. It is a true proud moment for India as well. It is the best of the best from there, the best of the best from here – collaborating, working together.

It has 17 South Asian actors, most of whom will debut on the stage for the first time. People in Turbans would be represented in a Broadway show. We have an Indian film being adapted hopefully into a Broadway show for the first time. We have two of the finest Indian composers writing songs for a Broadway show, hopefully. I keep saying hopefully in a Broadway show because that is the end goal; that is where we want to go.

You know this could be the future of entertainment. This type of movie to theatre show is what could happen more and more. There can be many forms and different mediums of entertainment today. All in all, there is so much going for this. So, it’s a great feeling. 

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

It is the 50th anniversary of Yash Raj Films. So, what do you think Mr. Yash Chopra would think about this show?
I actually woke up with that thought today. I was very lucky to be mentored by him very early on in my life. He was everything to me and a lot of where I am today; he has played a huge role in that. I just hope that today he is looking down and smiling. And he is proud and happy about the work his son is doing – who has taken the legacy ahead. We are able to play our small part in it. And maybe in the next 50 years, there will be many more things to see from YRF and India.

What do you hope audiences will take away with them after the curtain drops, the standing ovations are over, and they exit the theatre?
Definitely, the music – I saw that already over the last couple of days. When people come outside the theatre, if they are still humming the songs of the show they watched or heard, you know that it is going to stay with you for some time. 

(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.

Also, the performances by everybody. Especially Shoba (Simran), Austin (Rog), and Irvine Iqbal as Baldev; they all have done a phenomenal job. When you watch the show, you will see Simran; Shoba has played it really, really well. She is a fierce, proud independent Indian woman, and watching her play that part has been a real delight. I think she is going to be a role model for so many girls that watch Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical.

There is so much to take away – the song, the dance, the colors, the visualization of India – it is all so refreshing. Seeing the amalgamation of both cultures in the show and how India is represented on this stage. We are excited and are so thrilled about the fact India is going to be represented on a global stage.

It was such a pleasure to talk with Mr. Widhani about this brilliant show. Thank you, Mr. Widhani, for the amazing conversation!

Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical opened on September 14th after a series of previews, Come Fall in Love, at The Old Globe theater in San Diego and is having a dream run. Audiences have loved every moment, and in fact, each performance received a standing ovation after the curtain dropped. So you don’t want to miss this! Set to run through October 16th at The Old Globe, Come Fall in Love- The DDLJ Musical will then move on to Broadway.

To find out more and get tickets:

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