New Delhi, Mar 31 (PTI) 64-year-old Amarendra Dasari returned to Regal cinema late last night after a gap of over thirty years just to catch the last show at Delhi’s iconic theatre, where the air hung heavy with nostalgia.
At 1:30 AM, the 658-seater was packed to capacity, as nostalgic people from all walks of life, young and old, gathered for one last time under its roof to bid an emotional farewell to the theatre that has regaled audiences for 85 years.
“I had watched ‘Sangam’ as a child at ‘Sheesh Mahal’ theatre in Vijaywada 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.
“Ironically, the film I had last seen here was a Navin Nischol and Rekha-starrer ‘Woh Main Nahin’ which I saw it in 1974 when I had first come to Delhi for a job interview,” he said.
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, as lucky patrons flashed ticket stubs, took gleeful selfies inside the theatre and outside with Regal Building in the background to preserve the moment for posterity.
From doctors, engineers and architects, artists and musicians, the chequered 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 (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 fervour.
The love for Regal became evident when one of the staff in the Projector Room, who despite suffering a fall from a staircase and injury to his hand, returned to the theatre after visiting a hospital.
“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.
“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.
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).
The colonial-era theatre, which once hosted the likes of Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, in the moment of fading glory, perhaps had its last hurrah.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.