Last Thursday, Delhi's Regal Cinema, the 84-year-old single screen theatre, had its last screenings, before being torn down to become yet another multiplex that make modern metros. Amongst the many who made their way to the theatre to see the legendary Raj Kapoor's classics, was a character straight from Mera Naam Joker. No kidding!
As Sumantra Talukdar, a 24-year-old copywriter (and a friend of The Good City), paid for the last available ticket, he heard a voice demanding a free ticket. The querulous voice belonged to Ashok Kapoor, who was almost as old as the theatre itself, and a regular at Regal for over 60 years. Though the theatre was also screening another Raj Kapoor hit, Sangam, the old man wanted to see only Mera Naam Joker.
The reason soon became clear - he had played an extra in the film.
As he told Talukdar, "A lot of extras were required to play a part of the crowd, in the scene where Raj Kapoor's mother dies. There were a lot of retakes, in the end 20-30 people were left outside and the rest entered. I am one of them."
Hear Ashok Kapoor here:
The old man became emotional as he walked down memory lane; "I have not missed a single movie that has been screened at Regal. I almost considered Prithviraj Kapoor to be my father. I've been watching their films since I was a eight-year-old child".
And just like in the movies, old Ashok Kapoor had spent the last of his money on a drink and couldn't buy a ticket for the last screening of his film at Regal. The movie wasn't just a movie for him and, understanding that, Talukdar switched his ticket to Sangam and handed over the last ticket for Mera Naam Joker to Kapoor.
As the grateful extra almost danced his way into the cinema; reliving poignant memories of a time when he basked in the afterglow of the stars, the film's theme song,"Jeena yahan, marna yahan, iske siva jaana kaha?" echoed as a swan song for Regal and Ashok Kapoor.
Text by Ankita Sarkar
Photos by Lalson Ngaihte