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From multiplex mogul to singer: Life comes full circle for PVR INOX chief Ajay Bijli

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New Delhi, Dec 29: He had a college band and a love for music he says he left behind to handle the family business but when life gave him a chance to pursue his teen passion he grasped it eagerly – and today Ajay Bijli, PVR INOX managing director, can be heard crooning a song in “Dunki”.
Bijli started with covers of the songs that he likes in English and Hindi during the COVID-19 pandemic. He then decided to take things to the next level by singing an original track and it resulted in “Waheguru, Ik Onkar”, a spiritual number that features prominently in Shah Rukh Khan’s new release “Dunki” and is also available on T-series as a music video.
“It is a passion project and I hope that when people listen to the song, it helps them. I am not a religious guru or anything. I am just singing a song that resonated with me. It’s a prayer and has different meanings and interpretations for different people. I hope it touches people’s hearts,” Bijli told PTI in an interview.
Shot in the scenic Pathar Sahib Gurudwara near Leh, Ladakh, the video is directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra with Sheykhar Ravjiani attached as the composer and Ravi Verman as the cinematographer.
Bijli, who is a regular with his ‘riyaz’ (practice) and has been taking music lessons from a guru, said he always had a love for singing.
“I have been very fond of music right from the beginning. I had a band in college called Modus Operandi but in 1988 when I finished college, the band also finished because I started work in my transport company and then my love for cinema started in 1990,” he said.
His family had a transport business and owned Vasant Vihar’s Priya Cinema, which Bijli later expanded into a multiplex chain called PVR. The company recently completed its merger with INOX and is now known as PVR INOX.
Bijli, who now has a new band called Random Order, said the spiritual song is his first official release. He wanted to begin his musical journey by remembering god through a track that also connects him to his roots as a Punjabi.
“My mother really likes the song and I also wanted to give a tribute to her through this,” he added. Once he decided to record the song, Bijli approached Ravjiani as he had liked the composer’s rendition of “Hanuman Chalisa”.
“I reached out to him and said, ‘Shekhar, can you do a favour for me. Can you do an original rendition of ‘Ik Onkar’. And he said, ‘Okay, I will do it for you’. He did it for free without charging. I love the music he created, the loop of ‘Waheguru’.”
Bijli thought he will shoot the music video at the iconic Golden Temple in Amritsar or Delhi’s Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. But Mehra suggested that they shoot the video at Pathar Sahib Gurudwara near Leh, Ladakh.
It was just a coincidence that the song became a part of “Dunki”, directed by Rajkumar Hirani.
Shah Rukh Khan, his friend from school days, was discussing the film with him when Bijli realised that the song could find a place in the movie that’s set in Punjab.
“I spoke to Raju and said, ‘Listen, I have sung this rendition of ‘Ik Onkar’ and I believe the movie is set in Punjab and there is some gurudwara scene’.’ He said, ‘Yes, we have such scenes’. I said, ‘Can I just send you my song’. He said, ‘Yes, send it and I will see if I can fit it anywhere. But I have to like it and it has to resonate and go with the overall theme’. I said, ‘Yes of course, I am just taking a chance’.”
Luckily, Hirani liked the song and decided to include it in the film’s background and also made it a part of the official album.
Post “Waheguru, Ik Onkar”, Bijli plans to share his music with the public through songs on the theme of hope.
“I am approaching music directors whose music I like. I like Amit Trivedi’s music a lot, so I reached out to him a few months ago and I asked if I could do some songs. I explained to him that I am 56 years old and can’t do frivolous stuff.
“It has to be fun and positive because Covid was a time when everybody got very depressed. So I want songs of hope that bring a smile,” Bijli said, adding that his aim is to create songs that have “depth and longevity”.
Trivedi has written two songs that have been penned by Swanand Kirkire and Bijli plans to record it soon.
Bijli is happy that music has become a part of his life once again after so many years.
“Life comes full circle. Of course, my first job as the MD of PVR INOX is to run the company, I have a responsibility towards the shareholders and 25,000 people who work in PVR and 200 million visitors. But when people ask me, ‘How do you get the time?’ I always tell them that there are businessmen who play golf or tennis. They pursue other passions of riding or driving. This is my passion.”  (PTI)

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