“Aaj ek itihas khatam hone ja raha hai,” said Bhoop Sing, the ticket collector at Delhi’s famous Regal cinema as he collects the ticket for the last shows at the iconic theatre. As the day passed on and Connaught Place-the heart of Delhi basked in mellow sunshine, the Delhiites witnessed the end of an era. Without a poignant note and pretty abruptly, Regal decided to close down its shutter forever on March 31, 2017, with two offerings of Raj Kapoor’s blockbuster- Mera Naam Joker and Sangam.
Regal cinema, originally known as the New Delhi Premier Theatre, which was built in 1932 and used to initially have Prithiviraj Kapoor’s plays. However, as the cinemas started coming and the era of Raj Kapoor began, all his movies would be released at Regal only. And not just Raj Kapoor, Regal was the first choice of distributors, exhibitors and film stars for many years. The film went on to do fine business, notching up a silver jubilee till the multiplexes took over the market.
Apart from the declining financial position and a sharp fall in the number of customers, the mishap at Connaught Place in the last two months, where two buildings collapsed, gave another reason to the owners to shut down the age old theatre.
However, Regal is not just another monument or a theatre, it’s an emotion and a bunch of memories.
“My first experience with Regal was in 1963 when Nasir Hussain’s musical hit Phir Wahi Din Laya Hun was released. My parents took me and my other two siblings to watch that movie,” said Sundeep Pahwa, an ardent Bollywood lover and a frequent visitor to Regal.
“I’m known because of Regal. Who’ll recognise me now? I’ll lose my identity. They call me Verma ji Regal wale. Who’ll now know me as Regal’s accountant? Everyone will forget,” says Aman Singh Verma with a hint of sadness in his voice. Verma is working as a senior accountant in Regal since last 40 years.
As we leave the premise of the theatre after the last show, we watch the security guard closing the gates of Regal. It might come back to us in the form of a multiplex but the feeling and nostalgia attached to it will be etched in our memories forever.
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