Lifestyle Travel

Is Raj Mandir in Jaipur the world’s most beautiful cinema?

I haven’t been to every cinema in the world, but I can tell you that the Raj Mandir is a strong contender. I’m a big fan of Europa cinemas and I’ve been lucky enough to watch films in some of Europe’s most incredible art-house cinemas.

I’m sad to admit that the only Asian cinemas I’ve frequented before now have been soulless multiplexes so I was excited for the Raj Mandir experience after reading about it in my guidebook.

We went in the daytime to book our tickets at the advance booking counter to avoid disappointment. There is only one screen so just one film on at any time and it shows exclusively Hindi films. We went on the opening night of Bhaiaji Superhit at 6.30, there are four showings per day at 12.30, 3.30, 6.30 and 9.30.

A model of the Raj Mandir cinema
A model of the Raj Mandir cinema

When I walked into the foyer, I was amazed by the decor which even included a little model of the cinema itself.

Once I’d taken in the luxurious surrounding, I was surprised by the amount of foreign tourists including tour groups of older people. Tours of India are really popular of older people, especially British tourists. I shouldn’t have been surprised as the cinema does get an honourable mention in the guidebook. There were Indian tourists as well, so pretty much everyone was snapping selfies which was understandable. When the lights went up in the foyer at 6pm, there was an audible ‘oooh’ from the crowd.

We purchased a ‘diamond box’ ticket for 300 rupees and we got to sit in the balcony seats. There were two rows of seats and a private bar area with seats and toilets.

We sat in the back row with our friend that we found on the shelf.

It had a ceiling like no other that I’ve seen, it’s what I imagine being inside an intestine is like. Some pigeons live in the top folds as they flew around during the film. Maybe they’re trapped and they can’t escape.

Probably the nicest cinema bathroom I’ve ever been in, it was more like one you’d find in a theatre and no queues!

The cinema snacks are really cheap and the man goes around all the seats to ask you want you’d like during the interval. My boyfriend bought this chocolate roll which unfortunately looked exactly like a giant fossilised poo.

The film itself, was as this review suggests – appalling. The storyline didn’t make too much sense as it was more concerned with putting in as many unnecessary action scenes. It certainly failed the Bechdel test as they were no proper female characters, the only three women to appear were a secretary and two love interests. They didn’t get much screen time and the film mostly featured groups of men arguing and things exploding. Some foreign tourists actually walked out, and I don’t blame them.

Fandom is strong in India and the Bollywood actors are so popular that people will woop and cheer for them throughout the film.

If you’re into incredible cinemas of the world, the Raj Mandir has a handy list outside. I can’t vouch for any of these places, but here it is:

1. Cine Thisio, Athens, Greece

2. Alamo Draughthouse, Texas, USA

3. Raj Mandir, Jaipur, India (of course!)

4. Kino International, Berlin, Germany

5. 4DX, Seoul, South Korea

6. Uplink X, Tokyo, Japan

7. Prasads, Hyderabad, India

8. Cine de Chef, Seoul, South Korea

9. Secret Cinema, Worldwide

10. The Castro Theatre, San Francisco, USA

Tell me if you agree or disagree with Destination Berlin’s list? Or, if you have another favourite that you’d like to add to the list. Raj Mandir is currently at the top of mine, and I’d love to visit the one in Hyderabad during this trip!

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