A full house bids soulful farewell to Regal cinema

<b>The colonial-era theatre, which once hosted the likes of Lord Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, in the moment of fading glory, had its last hurrah</b>

File photo by Pramod Pushkarna
File photo by Pramod Pushkarna


1:30 am. Saturday, March 31. Regal, the 658-seater was packed to capacity. Nostalgic people from all walks of life, young and old, gathered for one last time under its roof to bid adieu to the theatre that regaled audiences for 85 years.

Lights went out at the Raj-era recreational hub of the capital with back-to-back screening of Raj Kapoor classics Mera Naam Joker and Sangam.

Both shows went full house, in fact, the shows were already sold out on bookmyshow. The lucky ones who had already bought tickets on line, flashed ticket stubs, took gleeful selfies inside the theatre and outside with Regal Building in the background to preserve the moment for posterity.

Sixty-four-year-old Amarendra Dasari returned to Regal cinema late last night after a gap of over 30 years just to catch the last show at Delhi's iconic theatre. “I had watched Sangam as a child at Sheesh Mahal theatre in Vijayawada in 1964, the year it released. I couldn't resist coming here. I have come just to say goodbye and savour the moment. Wish it had stayed, but it will be in our memories forever,” Dasari said.

From doctors, engineers and architects, artists and musicians, the checkered floor of the lobby resonated with echoes of old songs, as a group of enthusiastic people crooned the classic numbers from Mera Naam Joker and Sangam in tribute.

Roop Ghai, aged 64, the manager of the theatre, who has served it for nearly four decades, was emotionally overwhelmed too, and so were his staff of about 20 people, who have run the place with traditional fervor. “Regal was our lifeline and now it is gone. We will return as a multiplex, but this is indeed end of an era. I was there till the last moment when the 'The End' sign for Sangam flashed on the big screen,” he said.

The love for Regal became evident when Ramesh Kumar, already retired member of the Projector Room, despite suffering a fall from a staircase and injury to his hand, returned to the theatre after visiting a hospital.

Audiences, Regal staff, projectionists, for some time felt like one big family.

“The display of love for Regal was just phenomenal. If people had shown the same love and enthusiasm throughout the year, perhaps, we would not have shut down, but the emotional outpouring last night was historic, nonetheless,” Ghai told PTI.

Film critics, film buffs or just common viewers, all were under influence of the strong nostalgia that hung heavy in the embalming whiff of the late night. Seeing people singing during the show with Raj Kapoor the unforgettable songs – Ye mera prem patra padh kar or Mere mann ki Ganga...” or sharing memories standing outside the hall with family and friends and staff members, was an intense nostalgic poem.

The ‘alloo patties’, the checkered floor, visiting shops and restaurants nearby after the film show – the entire experience of watching a film in the nineties and earlier was relived again in the shared memories.

Arvind Guautam, a devout Raj Kapoor fan, came with a special banner carrying images of posters of his old classics from Aag to Sangam and a farewell message at the bottom that read – “Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna” (Never say goodbye).

And thus, after a brief and intoxicating visit to nostalgia, Regal became a still landscape in the memory of Delhi and people returned to their present life of malls, multiplexes and mobile phones, hoping that someday, Regal, too, will come back to life keeping pace with all the changes.

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