City Walk – The Regal Cinema Backside, Central Delhi
The underground excursion.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This has to be the craziest ‘walk’ in Delhi. Actually, it is nothing but a little lane hidden behind the Regal cinema building in the Colonial-era Connaught Place. You might want to run away upon entering it, but this lane might also offer a treasure trove of materials to aesthetes who gravitate towards the derelict architecture of inner cities.
Before you dive in, stuff yourself with Delhi’s best and arguably greasiest chhole bhature at Kwality restaurant in the Regal cinema building, off Parliament Street. Then walk past a blood test lab which, until a few months ago, was the historic A Godin & Co. piano shop, and turn towards the back lane The Delhi Walla spoke about. The ‘walk’ begins now. To the right is an office of Indiatourism.com—you can always spot a few foreign tourists and Indian guides hanging outside. A giant black plastic water tank stands next to it, while the upper floors are a jumble of overhanging cables and rusting air conditioners.
The setting becomes more derelict as you walk further, amid blocks of old, crumbling buildings with paint peeling off them, exposing the bricks underneath. At one, the windows, perhaps not closed for years, are entwined with creepers. The walls are plastered with printed notices warning that “trespassers will be prosecuted”. As if.
This lane is home to a mix of businesses. There are a number of courier offices, the sequence interrupted suddenly by a shop named Cottage Industry. A wine and beer shop adjoins the office of a vaastu consultant and numerologist. Dutch courage before you learn your fate perhaps.
And just around the corner is the very respectable India Coffee Centre, which once used to supply freshly ground coffee from south India to the Presidential Palace. But before you decide to end the walk by buying coffee from here, look out for a lovely set of spiral staircases across the lane (see photo 15 below). That’s PVR Rivoli, the old single-screen theatre taken over by a multiplex chain in 2004. The other single-screen cinema hall in the area is Regal. Every time the season changes, its owner threatens to down shutters owing to a lack of business.
However these recurrent threats pan out, the upper floors of the building at least might attract crowds. London-based wax museum Madame Tussauds is set to open its first museum in India. If Regal closes, perhaps Madame Tussauds can immortalize it in wax.
The truth behind the inner cities