The show was supposed to start at 10 pm – to end it all.
The box-office window was crowded with people, most of them with grey hair and bald spots. The excitement was palpable. Couples, in their 60s, could be seen taking selfies with the movie posters. A group was singing in a non-synchronous chorus. The movie was not a latest one, but one with Raj Kapoor as the young lead actor. It was almost like one had traveled back in time. Perhaps it was, for a lot of people there.
This was a sangam of cinema lovers, to catch the last show of Regal Theatre, before the curtains came down on the legendary single screen movie hall. It had its last screening on 30 March. Situated in the heart of Delhi, Regal was showing Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker at 6 pm, and Sangam as the last show at 10 pm.
I have been here once, a few years ago, to kill time between other engagements. The movie was Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger, and I couldn’t hear a thing because the sound was echoing from the plastered walls. The chairs were randomly numbered, and the legroom was a luxury. A few people, sitting a few rows ahead, had comfortably sprawled themselves with their legs on the seats in front of them. They whistled, clapped, cheered, and Salman Khan found his audience.
At the last day and the last show of Regal, I met a lot of people overwhelmed with nostalgia. “We used to bunk college to see a movie here, in Regal,” seemed to be a common refrain, and also a pointer that it was a cool place to hang out.
Sunil, audienceWe are here after 20-22 years. The last film we saw in Regal was probably Maachis
After doing a Facebook Live from the venue, which went on for about an hour (Link below), I walked up to the main auditorium, crossing the grand reception hall, which also housed one of the cheapest snack-counters in a move theatres. The movie was on, and people were standing in the aisles. I found a spot and stood somewhere there. The movie was being played in a square dimension. Nobody found it weird apparently.
The auditorium was almost a chamber of happiness, with flashes of both happy grins, and smartphones.
Outside, not everybody was happy. From the support staff to the administration, the employees told me that beyond the sadness of Regal’s closure, they’re more worried about their jobless future now. “It’s the bitter taste of losing a job after 37 years of working here. I have seen this place transform in front of me. Now, I’m nearing my retirement age. Which multiplex will employee an old person like me?” rued a ticket checker not wishing to be identified.
A Regal employee, not wishing to be namedNow, I’m nearing my retirement age. Which multiplex will employee an old person like me?
At the box-office, Amit Bhatnagar was still manning the ticket counter, helping late-comers get the remaining pink-coloured tickets of the front stalls. Amit told me that there were no actual losses in operations, and all the employees were happy. “The losses were manufactured so they can shut this and make a multiplex instead,” said Bhatnagar.
The clock struck 12 am. The film reached its halfway mark, with two more hours of runtime remaining. The melodious tracks by Shankar Jaikishan were audible in the alleyway outside, as the night took over a better part of Connaught Place.
Regel was lit, for the love of cinema.