It’s never too late in life to pursue a passion. And Ajay Bijli is proof of that. When he started working in the family business at the age of 20, he no longer had time to focus on his passion for music, which he had honed in school and college. But now that he is Chairman and Managing Director of PVR Limited, India’s best-known cinema chain which he founded, and has found himself relatively freer during the pandemic, he is finally living his dream. schoolboy, singing with his own band at the age of 55.
rock on IRL
“I tried to make a Rock On! thing trying to reunite my old bandmates from my college days during the first wave of the pandemic. But someone was a lawyer, another didn’t want to go on stage,” says Ajay. Thus, Gaurav Raina from MidivalPunditz, Ajay’s friend,
put him in touch with Manu Saxena – now Ajay’s band manager – who suggested that Ajay bring in full-time musicians instead.
Thus, Random Order was born. Named as such because the group does not want to be tied to any musical genre, it includes musicians from the generation Y who are also part of other collaborations: guitarist Shashvat Pandit, drummer Kabir Uppal, singer Adityan Nair (also a teacher of vocals of Ajay), bassist Gaurav Balani, pianist Archit Anand and drummer Suyash Gabriel.
“It made more sense to have musicians who would be happy to come on board than friends who might be busy with work,” says Ajay. “I also have to be dedicated or they will be put off. I am fully aware that they are musicians and I am a businessman.
Random Order is not just a passing phase for Ajay. To make sure the band was always at their best, he found a Berklee teacher named Adrianna Ballack and had music lessons with her at 5 a.m. India time three times a week. Even now, he practices for an hour at 6 a.m. every day.
Ajay’s bandmates are excited to work on retro music. “Albums back then were made with big budgets, and it shows. To be able to bring our music to this quality is inspiring,” says Shashvat.
The passion for retro music shared by the band members also functions as a bond. ” I think of him [Ajay] at 16 years old. The band works because we like the same kind of music,” says Shashvat. Archit adds: “He comes ready to play. So you don’t feel like you’re working with someone who doesn’t make music professionally.
Age: just a number
For Ajay, the biggest challenge is not singing. It’s how not to look and feel awkward on stage. As the Chairman and CEO of one of India’s best-known entertainment companies, does he feel strange when corrected by his bandmates?
Ajay shrugs, “Not at all. They point out where I’m not doing the right thing, like they should. Adityan keeps telling me that my posture is not correct. They are the artists.
The band have now come up with their own rendition of an Elton John song, after getting permission from the record label. This song, which will be released soon, is dedicated to the medical fraternity.
Ajay loves his retro hits because they were the first songs he bonded with back in the 1980s when he was in school. When he first heard the Beatles, they stuck in his head on repeat.
“I also have nerdy influences like Saturday Night Fever and Grease. I used to sing falsetto a lot because of the Bee Gees. Then I got into the school choir and was introduced to Simon and Garfunkel with The Sound of Silence, and I noticed the depth of the music as well as the lyrics,” Ajay recalls. And of course, there were a lot of Kishore Kumar, Jagjit Singh, Mehendi Hassan, Nusrat etc.
Career vs passion
Has Ajay ever been tempted to venture into music as a career? “Always. I released an album called Rhythmic Showers when I was 17-18 and wrote songs. But I knew my main responsibility was to run the business and my family – I got married at 23 years old,” says Ajay. “I was never a trained singer but I aspired to be. But I never thought about leaving the company to pursue music.
Ajay felt that he needed some stability in life before he could pursue music as he wanted. “Dad died when I was 25 and my formative years were spent traveling the country, opening movie theaters,” he says.
Now that PVR has not only settled but grown, Ajay is ready to pursue his schoolboy passion, but this time perhaps with a better understanding of the financial implications of independent music.
“You shouldn’t think about making music to make money,” warns Ajay. “Although if you do a great job, it will be financially rewarding. There are musicians overseas who are now multi-billionaires. Like Ed Sheeran. And K-Pop is everywhere.
But this is not in India, we emphasize. Does Ajay agree that this may be due to the fact that musicians in our society are still considered artists or background noises, not artists? “Yes and no, because India is a disparate country. There are incredibly prolific artists like Lataji and people who struggle too,” he explains.
As Random Order starts to get into his rhythm, Ajay promises Brunch HT and its readers two things: “We’ll be releasing an original soon and we’ll be venturing to support and give a platform to other musicians as well.”
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From HT Brunch, March 27, 2022
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