By Monica Arora
The majestic colonnades and pillared glory of Lutyen’s Delhi oozes its charisma in Connaught Place, an open market place situated in the heart of central Delhi. Designed by British architects of the bygone Raj, every shop, structure, restaurant and cinema hall narrate a story, convey a tale or whisper an anecdote each time one happens to visit the area.
Amidst the upcoming brands, which are replacing the erstwhile traditional stores, stood the Regal Cinema, whose last show was open to the public on 30 March 2017. The iconic cinema hall, which was established way back in 1932, was flanked by the Shivaji Stadium and the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, both relatively recent constructions. And therein lay its magic!
The fact that a single screen theatre stood the test of time for decades and kept on lighting up a million dreams of cinegoerswithin its cosy, womb-like interiors is what rakes up all the nostalgia.
Popularly known for showcasing most of Raj Kapoor’s movies, the original showman of Indian cinema, the shutting down of Regal is perhaps an ode to the end of an era…an era when movie stars were worshipped like gods and goddesses and public frenzy knew no bounds at the premiere of a new Bollywood release, which invariably saw the stars personally attending the first show at landmark theatres.
Regal being one of those in the capital city of New Delhi thrived and prospered with each new release bringing more and more crowds to watch their favourite movies on the silver screen.
And, who can forget the thrill of watching a new Hindi film amidst the chawwani-throwing crowds and the whistling fans who would even end up performing a jig right at their seats if a superhit song played on the screen. Certainly, that experience can never be replicated or recreated with the closure of most single screen halls giving way to swankier multiplexes with latest digital technology and modern amenities.
With no online booking facilities available till even a few years back, zealous fans would line up right from Connaught Circus where Regal is situated upto the Outer Circle to ensure a First Day First Show ticket of a much-awaited movie. Hell! There were much fewer releases back then and Raj Kapoor comprising one-third of the holy Bollwood trinity of Dev Anand-DilipKumar-Raj Kapoor, was the Charlie Chaplin and messiah of the masses. Therefore, it was indeed a befitting tribute to the great showman that the swansong or the last two shows of Regal were two of his superhits: Mera Naam Joker and Sangam.
It is no secret that over the last decade or so, the cinema hall had started losing much of its former charm owing to lack of upgraded technology and poor maintenance and upkeep. But relatively lower ticket prices as compared to multiplexes kept the proverbial fire burning for its owners. Till it was time to finally call it a day.
Following in the footsteps of its other neighbours in the vicinity, Odeon, Rivoli and Plaza, all of which have already been transformed into PVR Odeon, PVR Rivoliand PVR Plaza, the final tickets have been printed and sold for the last shows at Regal; the final coffees at the Espresso machine have already been sipped, the last of the popcorns have been savoured…until it reopens in its new multiplex avatar!
For those who have had a chance to witness the delight and excitement of the milling crowds in a single-screen theatre at some point in their lives, they can understand that such an atmosphere can never ever be created within the sanitized precincts of a freezing multiplex theatre with lesser seats, more screens and a perpetually Arctic temperature zone, no matter the weather outside.
The black and white mosaic flooring, the huge, whirring fans lining the sides of the theatre walls and the old-fashioned Eveready torches which the ushers used to indicate the seat at Regal Cinema will just end up as memories of the good, old days.
The huge posters adorning the lobby area and the stately marble staircase leading to the rear, upper stalls and balcony will all be a part of this brilliant legacy and tradition that is breathing its last with curtains for most single-screen theatres all around the country.
But as time and tide stand still for no one, similarly, the old always gives way to the new…jeena isi ka naam hai!