Aditya Chopra’s Broadway-bound musical Come Fall In Love has many firsts for India and Indians. For the first time, an Indian director, Aditya Chopra, is set to debut on Broadway. It is also the first Bollywood musical set to be on Broadway. It has Vishal and Sheykhar debuting too as composers and Shruti Merchant will do her first Broadway musical as Associate Choreographer. The lead of Come Fall In Love, Shoba Narayan aka Simran, plays her ethnicity for the first time on stage.
On top of this, there are 16 other South Asian actors who are also set to debut on Broadway, a first for any musical on Broadway stage. So, to put this into perspective, out of the 30 cast members in the musical, 17 are South Asians or Indian Americans! So, for actors like Amita Batra, Neha Dharmapuram, Rohit Gijare, Irvine Iqbal, Usman Ali Ishaq, Nika Lindsay, Caleb Mathura, Kinshuk Sen, Meher Mistry, Shoba Narayan, Shahil Patel, Rupal Pujara, Geatali Tampy, Vishal Vaidya, Sonya Venugopal, Bhumit Patel and Zain Patel, this is nothing short of being a part of history for South Asian representation.
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The South Asian and Indian American cast of Come Fall In Love speak out for the first time on how proud they are feeling about representation, which hasn’t happened before Aditya Chopra’s production. Irvine Iqbal, who plays Simran’s father the turbaned Baldev on stage, says, “When the South Asian community is one of the largest ethnic minority groups in the US, why would we not ensure that our theatres reflect this demographic and see that musicals proportionately cast South Asian actors? Isn’t this the world we live in today? It’s increasingly clear that audiences are becoming more diverse and expect to see themselves reflected on our stages".
He adds, “If we don’t see ourselves represented on the stage how can there be any representation? The collective frustration of the American South Asian talent out there comes from not being able to have a meeting or audition to showcase their talents. We are overlooked, ignored or simply invisible to many with the ability to affect change.”
Rupal Pujara, who plays Simran’s mother Lajjo, says, “I am so grateful to Aditya Chopra for pursuing his long awaited dream of adapting DDLJ for the stage. Come Fall In Love is updating the beloved classic, DDLJ, by expanding the narrative of its female characters. In this version, Lajjo is not only a devoted wife and mother - she’s also strong, soulful and fiercely witty. This production is a step forward for South Asian women. It makes space for more of our stories to be seen by larger audiences.”
Shoba Narayan has said earlier, “The fact that we have an Indian musical headed to Broadway feels incredibly personal and monumental to me as an Indian American actor who was raised by Indian immigrant parents, and who loves Bollywood films, Broadway, and Indian fine arts. It’s a great moment of pride to see our Indian culture celebrated and represented so authentically on the world’s biggest stage. This is something I’ve spent my life and career fighting for. Hopefully, this will be the first of many.”
Kinshuk Sen, who plays Kuljit - Simran’s to be husband in the musical, says, “We have one of the largest South Asian casts I have ever seen on a western stage, that too being guided by a creative team that is also predominantly South Asian. Being from Delhi, but having lived and worked in the US now for almost a decade, I have almost always been the lone person of color, let alone the only Indian person, in every circle I have been a part of. So, to be a part of a team where my voice is being represented and heard, and that too positively and accurately, means the world to me. Our culture is so beautiful and yet, I feel like we have never gotten our due in the west… until now!”
Vishal Vaidya, who plays another principal character called Ajit - Kuljit’s dad, says, “As a Gujarati American who grew up dancing Garba, Raas, and Bhangra, I felt I had to leave that part of my identity behind when I pursued musical theatre. But here I am, speaking Gujarati in rehearsals with our brilliant Associate Choreographer, Shruti Merchant, and dancing with the extraordinary company of desi artists in our show. It feels like coming home.”
He adds, “I’m so excited about what this show will do for representation on stage. South Asian Americans have never really had a show that can also be a training ground for new talent, and I find great hope in the idea younger artists will see this show and feel that, finally, they belong in this industry.”
Sonya Venugopal, who is in the ensemble, says, “I grew up feeling that authentic representation of South Asian culture was always lacking, and I was always searching for a way to be seen and heard in this industry. I think CFIL allows the audience, and specifically those who are South Asian, to see themselves on that stage. I have never seen, let alone been in a show where at least half of the company is South Asian, so this is a huge milestone.”
Nika Lindsay is also part of the ensemble in the musical and she says, “To be part of a show that is carried by South Asian performers is a true honor. Before working on Come Fall In Love, I had never seen, nor been involved with a production where I saw myself represented on stage at all, much less to the extent that I feel seen with Come Fall In Love. So to be standing alongside sixteen other South Asian artists, telling a story inspired by one of the most beloved films in Indian Cinema, is a dream come true.”
She adds, “In my career thus far, I’ve had little hope that I would be in a show where I, as a brown woman, am in the majority. Come Fall In Love has challenged that doubt, and gifted me an opportunity to be one of many beautiful brown humans on stage. I think that having this show on Broadway will be nothing short of ground breaking, and will give hope and pride to hundreds of thousands of South Asians, both in the industry and out.”
Neha Dharmapuram, again part of the ensemble, adds, “Something that one of my cast members said to me that has stuck with me throughout this whole process is ‘There might be a young South Asian girl in the audience that will discover her dream for the first time tonight’. I go into work every day telling myself that by simply showing up for myself and my passions, I might be giving another South Asian creative the courage to pursue their dreams. Not only that, I hope that watching so many South Asians pursue a career in the arts on one stage will give parents the confidence to support their children in pursuing non-traditional careers.”
Caleb Mathura, again part of the ensemble, adds, “Representation always matters, but its effect is so evident within the Arts. I have met people who have traveled across the country to see this show. Not only are they coming to San Diego as a fan of the film, but as someone who yearns to feel celebrated, embraced and respected. Our show gives them that feeling. I hope this is only the beginning of telling Indian stories onstage in America.”
The show also champions diversity and every department from cast to technicians is a beautiful confluence of East and West as Indian and South Asian representation is at the heart of this show. Come Fall In Love speaks about the need for cultural unification in a growingly divisive and toxic world. It is about the celebration of inclusivity and diversity in a world that’s getting polarised by the minute. It is about the celebration of love and how it can unify people, cultures and break down all barriers.
The musical also has 18 original English songs to treat audiences with and the makers reveal that they also have a beautiful song Love In Every Colour that celebrates the theme of inclusivity in the show. Meanwhile, The Old Globe, one of the most respected theatres in the USA, has announced an extension of the World Premiere of Aditya Chopra’s Come Fall in Love – The DDLJ Musical due to popular demand! The Broadway-bound production, which opened last week and has received standing ovations for every performance, has been extended for one week only and will now play through October 23, 2022.