Shah Rukh Khan© Yash Raj Films, Getty Images

‘Raj’ Has Become ‘Roger’ In The ‘DDLJ Musical’ And Fans Are Not Happy

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

In case you missed the memo, director Aditya Chopra had announced in October last year that his debut film, and inarguably one of the most iconic Bollywood movies to exist, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is going to be adapted into a Broadway musical.

Chopra announced that one of the longest-running Hindi movies ever will go global, combining two of his loves: Broadway musicals and Indian films.

DDLJ was a story about Simran (Kajol) who lives with her family in London and decides to go on a Eurotrip before she succumbs to her father’s wishes and marries the guy he’s picked for her in India. She meets Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) on the holiday and they fall in love with each other. Set between UK and India, the story follows Raj and Simran’s love story and their struggles to overcome opposition from Simran’s father and his rigid traditional thinking.

Titled Come Fall In Love- The DDLJ Musical, the play will be directed by Chopra himself and feature music composed by Vishal-Shekhar.

Despite DDLJ’s enduring popularity amongst the masses, the news has not been met with cheers all around. This is because Chopra has diverted to the original story for the stage adaptation, where Simran falls in love with a white American boy, instead of a westernised Indian boy. The director had gone on record to say that he originally wanted to cast Tom Cruise as the lead instead of SRK and stick to the story of Simran falling in love with a non-Indian guy.

He reiterated this in the note he shared that accompanied the announcement. “As a 23-year-old young man greatly influenced by Hollywood and American pop culture, I thought I would make a couple of Indian films and then I would be off to Hollywood and make DDLJ for a worldwide English-speaking audience with Tom Cruise as my leading man. That obviously didn’t happen. DDLJ was released in 1995 and became the longest-running film of Indian cinema. It gave me my identity and kickstarted an amazing journey for which I’ll always be grateful,” he wrote, adding, “26 years later I’m going back to my original vision of the story of DDLJ, a love story of an American boy and an Indian girl, a love story of two cultures… two worlds. But this time the medium is not cinema but theatre. 26 years later I will be directing DDLJ all over again but this time as an English language Broadway musical for a worldwide audience.”

So now Raj Malhotra has become Roger ‘Rog’ Mandel, with actor Austin Colby playing the role in the musical. Simran will be played by Quantico actress Shoba Narayan.

Colby took to Instagram to share the news of his casting and wrote, “A few months ago, I had never heard of the film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) or known of its global impact. I am in awe of this beautiful love story, celebrating Bollywood film at its finest. And now, to have workshopped Come Fall In Love - The DDLJ Musical under the original director, Aditya Chopra, and trusted with the role of Raj (now Rog) to bring Bollywood to Broadway as a reimagined, inclusive cultural experience will undoubtedly be the greatest honor of my career. I hope I make you proud, @iamsrk. (sic)”

Fans of the movie haven’t taken kindly to Raj being converted into Rog for the stage. The movie, and the role, had played a huge role in cementing SRK’s popularity as a romantic hero in Bollywood and many fans feel that this new casting does a disservice to the original.

Many South Asian Twitter users are also criticising the movie to reverting to the cliche narrative of a white man ‘saving’ the brown girl from her oppressive family.

The musical is now being counted amongst the many Broadway musicals that have been criticised for whitewashing, including Hairspray and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights.

The lack of diversity in casting, with white actors taking up nearly two-thirds of all roles available and 94 percent of Broadway producers and directors being white was pointed out in a 2021 report.

The musical will be premiering at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego in September and will be perfomed on Broadway till mid October.