New Delhi: After entertaining film lovers for more than eight decades, Regal Theatre signed off in style with a ‘house-full’ last show of Raj Kapoor’s 1964 movie “Sangam” last night.
Built in the pre-independent era, Regal once hosted Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi and megastar Amitabh Bachchan.
The cinema hall, which opened in 1932, will stop operating as a single screen from tomorrow but the staff is treating the last day at work just like another day. “All shows are booked for today. But we have a few tickets left for the front-stall of the evening show of Raj Kapoor’s ‘Mera Naam Joker’. We don’t know if any of them will be left in a few hours from now,” says manager Roop Ghai. He says it was a difficult moment for the Regal family but it was something that could not have been avoided. “Yes, it is the end of an era but this is how it is.” Ghai is not sure about the future of the 15-odd people employed at the theatre but hopes that the owners retain the old staff once Regal returns as a multiplex. Despite it being the last day, the manager says they kept the rates of the tickets unchanged. “No, we have not hiked the prices. They are the same. The front-stall for Rs 80, the rear-stall for Rs 100, the balcony for Rs 120 and the box for Rs 200.” Amar Singh Varma is busy settling accounts of the employees while attending to customers’ calls just as diligently as he has been doing for more than four decades of his service as an accountant. “I have worked here as accountant for almost half the time this theatre has been functioning. My main concern right now is to settle all dues of the employees. But the phone keeps ringing as people are still calling to ask for tickets.” Varma says there are around 10-15 people who have been actively working for the cinema hall, apart from the other staff. The grandeur and magic of the bygone era is still visible in its corridors, which are flanked by the black-and-white images of cine stars Nargis, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor. When asked what films he has watched in the theatre, a misty-eyed Varma says, “I am a huge fan of Raj Kapoor and I don’t like watching films that are being made today. I don’t call them films. Tonight, I will watch ‘Sangam’, which is the last show.” One would expect for a theatre as old and loved as the Regal to go out with some pomp and show. But the atmosphere is quiet and no special arrangements have been made for the final day. “We are just going to have an intimate lunch with the staff and it will be our ‘bidaai’ (farewell).” He, however, wishes that they had a grand celebration but that is something the owner should have thought about. On saving single screens, Varma says it is going to be a difficult time as people do not wish to come to such cinema halls anymore. “Nobody cares. So, it gets difficult for us to survive in the changing market. Now, only the government can do something to preserve whatever is left of the single screens in the country. If they will not cut down the taxes, I don’t see single screens sustaining for long.” Veteran actor Rishi Kapoor took to Twitter to bid an emotional goodbye to Regal. “Demolish. Adios Regal Theatre, Delhi. A place where all the Kapoor’s theatre and cinema work was seen. Had ‘Bobby’ premiered there too! Thank you!,” the actor posted on Twitter alongside a picture of the iconic cinema hall.