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Hear Multiplex Entrepreneur Ajay Bijli Take on a Pop Classic with ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’

The founder of PVR Cinemas gathers the likes of Gaurav Balani, Archit Anand and others for his band Random Order

Anurag Tagat Apr 23, 2022

Ajay Bijli (center) with members of his band Random Order - Shashvat Pandit (extreme left), Adityan Nair (third from left) and Gaurav Balani (extreme right). Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Back in the mid-eighties in New Delhi, Ajay Bijli was studying commerce at Hindu College but also feeding his love for artists like Richard Marx, Def Leppard and Genesis as part of rock band Modus Operandi. As his career took a wholly different turn when he went on to found and run cinema company Priya Village Roadshow (PVR) in 1995, music understandably took a backseat.

Bijli mentions he took the occasional lesson in music and sang Hindi songs, but it was during the pandemic – which was harsh on the cinema and music industry – that he started his own band Random Order, featuring some of the capital’s seasoned musicians. There’s bassist Gaurav Balani (from rock veterans Parikrama), prolific keyboardist Archit Anand, vocalist Adityan Nair (from experimental act The Urban Earlymen), guitarist Shashvat Pandit (from hardcore/metal act Grammy Winning Effort) and drummers Kabir Uppal and Suyash Gabriel.

Random Order’s first point of order was to jam, but Bijli also intended on releasing a song dedicated to medical personnel fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. “I went to the hospital a few times, once for my mother, once for my wife and a few other times, and I just was completely blown away by the amount of effort the doctors are putting in,” he says. Not wanting to be a “frivolous band” put together as a vanity project, Random Order have released a soaring version of Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” picking up specifically on the duet version with George Michael from the late eighties. To Bijli, the song signified hope and “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Trained by American vocalist and educator Adriana Balic (a longtime member of singer Pink’s band), Bijli says he wanted to add his own flavor to the song. “I took the rights, of course, because I didn’t want a big lawsuit coming from anybody,” he says with a laugh.

The “ultimate goal” for Random Order, however, is to write and release their own music. “I’ve written a few songs. Some of the guys have written some music,” Bijli says. He admits that given that there are serious, seasoned independent artists in the room with him, he wouldn’t want to stick to just covers. “We’re brainstorming because I can see it in their eyes. I’m 55. And these guys are all [in their] late 30s, late 20s, early 30s. And I don’t think I can hold on to them if I keep on doing covers,” he adds. His work as the chairman of a publicly traded company like PVR continues, but jams and gigs are scheduled around all of that.

There’s a gig coming up at the Piano Man Jazz Club in New Delhi in May and it’s worlds apart in terms of setting, compared to a mall gig or when Bijli performed at his younger brother’s 50th birthday as a private affair in Istanbul. He says, “To be on stage and present an alter ego of myself… it’s not easy. I have to forget about who I am when I get on the stage. My band members have really been urging me to forget that I run a company and to get into a different zone. So that’s been a bit challenging for me.”

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The formation of Random Order is not entirely surprising to anyone who has seen PVR slowly make a few moves in the world of music – they’ve screened BTS concerts and in 2019, launched a live performance venue called PVR Home in the capital. Bijli says independent music in India “can still go to another level.” He adds, “I think this [Random Order as a project] should be a platform to encourage newer talent as well.”

Watch the video for “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” below.