It was an outpouring of nostalgia for movie buffs, young and old alike, who thronged the iconic 84-year-old single-screen Regal Cinema at Connaught Place on Thursday
People came from as far as London and Kochi to watch the last shows - Raj Kapoor's Sangam and Mera Naam Joker - old-world and colourful posters of which were plastered all over Regal's white facade on the final day.
People made videos, took selfies and even cried as Regal's cash counters declared the shows houseful. The staff - managers, projection boys and canteen staff - beamed smiles at all, knowing the crowd will be gone the next day.
Sixty-year-old AK Ahuja, who was seen filming the premises, said, "This was my theatre before PVRs came. After marriage, my wife and I settled in Paharganj, and on Sundays, we used to take the tonga (horse cart) from New Delhi railway station to here.
"We used to eat golgappas and watch films for 25 paisa. Those were the days," he reminisced.
Friends JS Negi and Manohar Lal, both retired officials of NAFED, came from Noida and Faridabad. Negi said, "I had come to see the first movie of my life Khamoshi in 1969 as a class 6 student with my dad. So Regal has a special attachment for me. It brings back memories of my dad."
For London-based businessman Sammy Satsangi and his wife Neeti, it was reliving their courtship days once more. Sammy said, "We were visiting India and learnt that our favourite Regal is closing. We used to come here as lovers, and watched so many films such as Bobby and Aao Milo Sajna, and are now here to say our last goodbyes as grandparents."
Regal was designed by Walter Sykes George and opened in 1932. Besides, its unique architecture, amalgamating European and Mughal styles, remains a big draw.
An emotional Satya Prakash, owner of an advertising agency in Shahpur Jat, said, "I was at the Kochi Biennale and rushed back when I came to know Regal is shutting. I can't believe they are closing it. It is heritage, the government should support or buy it."
"If Taj Mahal were to stop making profits tomorrow, would you close it? This is like Qutub Minar or Red Fort. What would Delhi look without them?," he said.
Regal manager Roop Ghai said, "It's been 40 years. I saw owners Rajeshwar Dayal and Vishal Chaudhary keep it alive through losses. But then, multiplexes became the flavour. Taxes kept on piling - service tax, entertainment tax and power costs." Projection man Shivram said, "I will miss loading film reels which have now been replaced by satellite downloading." Owner Vishal Chaudhary said Regal will be back with renovations in a multiplex avatar in two years.
Till then, its adieu!