It Is The End For Regal Cinemas

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!

Period Films Are Here To Stay


By Monica Arora
It’s been almost two years and we are still wondering as to why did Katappa kill Bahubali?

 We all have grown up reading larger than life stories of kings and queens, princes and princesses, gods and goddesses and so, on through fairy tales, Amar ChitraKatha comics or purely through word of mouth stories being passed around for generations from our great grandparents to our generation. Why just in India, a good fairy tale or a historical tale set in the golden days gone past evokes an eager audience everywhere in the world as the child in us still seeks a fascinating story of victory of good over evil or about a monarch or queen who hascaught our imagination through their riches, wealth, kingdom and lavish lifestyles. Think Cleopatra or Elizabeth or Braveheart in Hollywood or Mughal-e-Azam, Bahubali, Jodhaa Akbar, Bajirao Mastani or even the recent dud Mohen-jo-daro closer home in Bollywood.

 With the Bahubali II trailer having just being released, audience excitement mounts and the anticipation to discover as to why Katappa killed Bahubali is on full brim. The 2015 release, marketed under Karan Johar’sgrand Dharma banner was made at a budget of Rs 120 crore (1.2 billion), and went on to become the highest grossing Indian film within India, besides earning the title of third highest grossing Indian film globally. Actually, it was the first and only South Indian film directed by S. S. Rajamouli to gross over Rs 650 crore (6.5 billion) worldwide. So much is the frenzy around the sequel that a three-part book, entitled ‘Bahubali: The Untold Story’ has already been released for those curious to read the story in its entirety. Fans have gone on to compare it to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies and just cannot wait to see part two!

 Of course Bollywood is known for its period dramas right from the K Asif directed Mughal-e-Azam starring Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Prithviraj Kapoor. Conceievd in 1944, the film took more than 15 years in making and was eventually released only in 1960. Narrating the doomed love story of Mughal Prince Saleem (Dilip Kumar), who falls in love with a courtesan (Madhubala), only to be strongly opposed by Saleem’sfather Emperor Akbar, the lavishly mounted sets in those days, particularly the Sheesh Mahal created for the Pyarkiya to darna kya song, literally drew thunderous applause from audience whenever it was played on screen. 


Recent years have seen a revival of period based movies in Bollywood after a lull. Ashutosh Gawarikar directed Jodhaa Akbar in 2008 was amongst the fairly successful period dramas that depicted the love story and marital life of King Akbar and his Rajput queen Jodhaa. The main protagonists were played by the Adonis-like HritikRoshan and the queen by the stunning Aishwarya Rai Bachchan whose chemistry left cinegoers enthralled, not to forget the grand sets, stupendous war scenes, and aw-inspiring expensive jewels and costumes and plenty of arms and armour that were especially crafted to lend authenticity to the film. Deemed as a moderate hit, the movie had its cult following amongst those who loved its Sufi music and story.


And then came Bajirao Mastaani, Sanjay LeelaBhansali’s magnum opus in 2015 which became one of the highest grossers of all times, with collections touching some Rs 350 crores. What started as a dream project after his Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam became a huge hit in 1999, his original lead pair of Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai fell through owing to personal reasons and the film got stalled. Until 2014, when Bhansali cast Ranveer Singh as Bajirao, the luminous beauty Deepika Padukone as his Mastaani and Priyanka Chopra as Kashiba, Bajirao’s first wife. Ranveer’s killer physique and Deepika’s grace, costumes and mesmerizing beauty, besides her near-perfect portrayal of Mastani made the movie rake up a frenzy. Truly, the period drama had been revived and on a scale that had been unimaginable a few decades ago.

 The same year also saw Bahubali leaving audiences spellbound, not just in India, but all over the world. A good story enacted by actors and actresses with perfectly toned and well-maintained physiques and with so much thought, planning and detailing going into every aspect of filming has made this genre much sought-after.

With Bahubali 2 around the corner and ‘Padmavati’ in the making one thing is almost certain that period films are here to stay.

Dear Censor Board Bollywood Is Really Getting ‘Lady Oriented’


By Monica Arora

On the eve of yet another Woman’s Day celebrated with alarming alacrity on 8 March every year, it was amusing to see social media trolling and tabloids trashing Hollywood star Emma Watson for wearing a see-through top and exposing her breasts. The Sun carried a story titled ‘Beauty & the Breasts,’ while website, Pret-a-Reporter, stated: “Is Actress and Feminist Emma Watson a Hypocrite for Going Topless in Vanity Fair?”
Befittingly, Emma retorted with the very well-worded statement to Reuters in which she opined: “It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is. Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It’s very confusing.”

 Truly, it is indeed confusing as to what feminism is all about going by how society, particularly the Indian patriarchal society judges women and the male gaze is always looking down upon the female anatomy and sartorial choices.

 But what is heartening to note is the fact that currently, women or actresses in Bollywood are thriving and perhaps getting the best choice of roles that they could have ever envisaged. Right from the Vidya Balan’s portrayal of south Indian siren Silk Smitha in the bold and beautiful The Dirty Picture to a feisty woman protagonist in Kahaani 1 and 2; from Aalia Bhatt’s sexually abused little girl act as Veera in Imtiaz Ali’s much-acclaimed Highway to a state-level hockey player who gets embroiled amidst drug peddlers in Abhishek Chaubey’s heart-wrenching Udta Punjab; from Sonam Kapoor’s south Delhi miss hoity toity act in Aisha to the brave airhostess who saved so many lives whilst sacrificing her own in Ram Madhvani’s Neerja; Deepika Padukone as the quintessential Bengali professional and doting daughter in Shoojit Sarkar’s Piku to her powerful Mastaani portrayal in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastaani; and from a woman jilted by her fiancé on the eve of her wedding portrayed oh-so-effectively by the effervescent Kangana Ranaut in Vikas Bahl’s Queen to the female stuntwoman in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon, current Bollywood actresses are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to playing meaningful and powerful characters.

 Not too long ago, all a Hindi film heroine was required to do was two or three romantic numbers and five scenes to support the “hero” in the film but refreshingly, all that has changed. In fact, even when Madhuri and Sridevi ruled the roost in the 1990s, films like Beta, Tezaab and Ram Lakhan of the former, and Chandni, Chaalbaaz and Lamhe stood out as shining examples of how women centric subjects and powerful heroines were adding much value to the male-dominated industry. But these were few and far in between until very recently, when the above listed women actors started not just getting accolades and recognition for their roles, but movies even got a good opening by virtue of their leading lady. Case in point being Tanu Weds Manu 2 and Ram Leela.

And the best part was that more and more women centric films were doing very good business be it Kahaani 1 and 2, The Angry Indian Goddesses winning much critical acclaim, Dear Zindagi, or Sridevi’s comeback vehicle, the Gauri Shinde directed superhit, English Vinglish or even Aishwarya Rai’s impactful lawyer’s portrayal in Jazbaa or the Omung Kumar directed Sarbjit in which she plays the wronged man’s sister, women oriented subjects have found a breath of fresh air in the contemporary scenario.

 When Rani Mukherji left her husband portrayed by Abhishek Bachchan for lack of passion in a lackluster marriage in Karan Johar’s multi-starrer Kabhi Alvida na Kehna, the film drew gasps and groans from traditional Indian audiences back in 2006 as no one was willing to accept that she made love to the man she was attracted to, played by Shah Rukh Khan. The film generated a lot of mixed reactions and debate but cut to 2017, audience tastes have matured and they are all-embracing and all-encompassing to women’s issues such as attempt to rape in Pink; female infanticide in Matrubhoomi; extra marital affairs as in Tabu’s Astitva; child abuse as in Aalia’s Highway; casting couch in Kareena Kapoor’s Heroine; and above all the dignity of a wronged woman in Queen, English Vinglish and Gulabi Gang, all prove that women roles in Bollywood are undergoing a heartwarming transition and people are accepting flawed, real and very down to earth women in movie parts.

As the Greek philosopher Marcus Aurelius stated: “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” That is my ode to womanhood on this Woman’s Day! More power to the women stars…Shine and sparkle and bedazzle with your sheen…

Movie Review: ‘Commando 2’


By Monica Arora

Film: The Black Money Trail: Commando 2

Director: Deven Bhojani 

Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Esha Gupta and Adah Sharma

Genre: Action

Corrupt politicians: Check!
Black money laundering businessmen: Check!

Corrupt police officer: Check!

Corrupt police officer turning around to become the one with ‘heart of gold’: Check!

One-man fighter army to rid the world of all baddies: Check!

Hare-brained villain: Check!

Foreign locations: Check!

 That in a nutshell is the story of ‘The Black Money Trail: Commando 2’!

 Commencing with the relevant de-monetisationissue that has plagued the majority of Indians ever since it was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November, the movie is a typical Bollywood cat and mouse chase between the Commando, played by VidyutJammwal and the villain, whose identity I do not wish to reveal as that is the only so-called twist around Intermission point.

 The lesser that is said about the lead trio’s acting skills, the better. Vidyut Jamwal is all body and no soul; Esha Gupta is as wooden and mannequin-like in skimpy, figure hugging outfits and stilletoes akin to her last outing in Rustom,whilst Adah Sharmah is just there for comic relief with a jarring Hyderabadi, wannabe English-speaking accent that she is muchbetter in scenes where she stays mum.

 The track is a one-line plot with the Indian government tracking a huge black money trail linked to a person who has been traced in connection with several of the biggest money laundering deals in the recent past. Of course, the son of the Home Minister played by ShefaliShah as a cameo is also amongst the culprits and eventually it boils down to a two hour-three minute long mindless journey to catch the baddies, get the money details and then get rid of them in order to save the name of all the “biggies” involved. Cut to Vidyut ‘Commando’ Jamwal who wants to nab the baddies and the corrupt policemen and politicians involved. Yawn!

 But all is not lost yet! Shot in Taiwan and Malaysia, the movie has been edited quite crisply by Amitabh Shukla and Sanjay Sharma and has very decent production value under the Vipul Amritlal Shah banner. The supporting cast comprising of Freddy Daruwalah as the tough, corrupt cop Bakhtawar; Zafar, the website hacker played by Sumit Gulati; AdilSharma as the Special Forces Director and Satish Kaushik as the corrupt businessman are very well cast and enacted. In fact, I felt that they were better than the lead trio! The plot and story by Ritesh Shah is like a flying kite: it is about to get a grip when it suddenly goes into a lull and is let loose in the second half, which is perhaps the undoing of this very average movie. 

 The only part that keeps the viewer invested are the action sequences choreographed by none other than the leading man VidyutJammwal and Franz Spilhaus. The opening sequence, a flambouyant introductory set piece, no doubt “borrowed or inspired” from several Taiwanese and Korean films is gripping and so are the chase sequences and set fights that keep on regularly emerging throughout the movie and keep viewers invested when they are busy checking their SMSs and FB postsin an otherwise insipid scenario.

 Engaging in bits and pieces owing to its slick action and mediocre plot, the movie works only in parts and could have been better and far more crisper had someone paid a little more attention to the screenplay. It will certainly do well in the ‘B and C’ grade centres, the audience that is intended for but overall it is very average and will be soon forgotten.

My Verdict: **