ASHRAFF DEWAL, 42,

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Bazaar -

Read­ing?

Your he­roes? How do you de-stress? Some­thing big?

A place you love?

Travel is ... here’s this scene from David Mamet’s master­piece Glen­garry Glen Ross, where su­per­sales­man Blake – played shark-cold by Alec Bald­win – says this one line that is the per­fect, if sin­is­ter, crys­talli­sa­tion of suc­cess: “Cof­fee is for closers only.” Or, all good things only to those who sign, seal, and de­liver the deals, and it is clear that ev­ery guy in this edi­tion of the A-List is a bona fide closer. It’s a Thurs­day night, dusk has fallen to cock­tail hour at The Smoke House, at The Ma­jes­tic Ho­tel Kuala Lumpur, and Ashraff Dewal is exchanging CEO repar­tee with An­toine Bakhache even as indie ac­tor Bront Palarae catches up with hip hop boss Joe Fl­iz­zow. At the bar, cor­po­rate comm whiz kid Sashi Ambi de­codes film with Nic Shake, the young rock royal – his dad is the Dato’ Shake – who’s just signed with Uni­ver­sal and look­ing for­ward to launch­ing his al­bum. As news­man Ja­habar Sadiq chats with Jef­frey Mong, GM of this very fine es­tab­lish­ment, res­i­dent barman John­nie Yap, fixes rounds of the sig­na­ture Code 55 and 2 Bulat and spins the yarn of how the drink got its name; it in­volves a hand­gun and a rather an­gry woman. Later in the evening, when the con­ver­sa­tion gets crank­ing, is when the plot thick­ens and char­ac­ter de­vel­ops. Over Chef Zaidi’s be­guil­ing plates, Ja­habar, whose next ven­ture in­volves set­ting up a video news por­tal, re­gales the ta­ble with jour­nal­is­tic tales from the trenches. “It’s late in the evening and a chill wind was blow­ing across the high­land town of Tila, some 60km of rocky road from the dis­trict cap­i­tal, Dang, in western Nepal,” he be­gins. “For the high­landers, the four of us were among the first for­eign­ers to come to their re­mote mud­brick huts and with good rea­son. It was a Maoist vil­lage and they were cel­e­brat­ing their 10th an­niver­sary of the ‘Grand Peo­ple’s War’ against their king. A col­league took a lit­tle earth lane off the mud­brick huts that housed us and was us­ing a Thu­raya satel­lite phone to call his fam­ily and say he was safe, hours af­ter we ar­rived in a four-wheel drive. That’s when the drama started. The Maoists were up­set. They thought he was spy­ing for the gov­ern­ment. At gun­point, they took the four of us in a hud­dle. It didn’t look good. I had a video cam­era, my col­league had his DSLR, and two oth­ers were text jour­nal­ists. And we had the satel­lite phone. With guns and ri­fles pointed at our heads, we told them we were jour­nal­ists and just in­ter­ested in their sto­ries. Not spies. It took the bet­ter part of an hour to con­vince them oth­er­wise. And lo­cal hooch. Yet, we did it. Did we get good sto­ries from the misty high­land town with colour­ful doors and peo­ple, and the moon hang­ing low over the hori­zon? Of course.” From the head of the ta­ble, Joe weighs in with an ob­ser­va­tion of his own. “Ex­po­sure is where it’s at, and tal­ent, of course. Take singer-song­writer Yuna. All over the world, they’re talk­ing about her. I met Ver­bal from Ja­panese hip hop band Teriyaki Boyz, and even he was ask­ing about her. Then when I was in LA, Phar­rell made me lis­ten to like 10 tracks – wouldn’t let me leave.” Joe talks about the lo­cal mu­sic in­dus­try with a surge of adren­a­line, cred­it­ing Ah­mad Izham Omar with the suc­cess of Too Phat, the hip hop duo of which he was one half, and amped by his soon-to-be-re­leased al­bum in Ba­hasa Malaysia. “In some re­spects its rev­o­lu­tion­ary, in the flows and how we even have one or two songs that are al­most ba­hasa sastera. The rest is street, of course.” At print time, Joe would have pre­viewed a few hot tracks off the al­bum on MTV World Stage, which he’d have shared with Robin Thicke of “Blurred Lines” fame. By the time mains are served, it’s as if ev­ery­one has known each other for years. Nic in one cor­ner is play­fully hold­ing court on French id­ioms; An­toine is re­gal­ing all with tales of his fam­ily va­ca­tion and the im­por­tance of turn­ing neg­a­tives into pos­i­tives. “I never look at a sit­u­a­tion as be­ing ei­ther one thing or another con­clu­sively – no good busi­ness­man does,” he says dryly. Ashraff agrees and ups the ante with: “Real lead­ers ap­pre­ci­ate their teams be­cause you are only ever as good as yours.” At the other end, Sashi and Nigel Gan, who han­dles The Ma­jes­tic’s PR, are dis­cussing the pro­found mer­its of foot­ball and film. “It’s hard to be­lieve we are in the sev­enth year of the BMW Short­ies,” says Sashi who cut his teeth re­view­ing new mu­sic at Aus­tralia’s iconic na­tional daily The Age a decade ago. “The Short­ies is about un­earthing and cul­ti­vat­ing Malaysian cre­ative tal­ent and we have just pre­miered last year’s win­ner Chua Dick Woei’s Short­ies-funded Pizza, even as we launch the 2013 edi­tion. Watch­ing it grow has been some­thing else.” Bront, the ta­lented, coolly re­tir­ing ac­tor whose lat­est project Kolumpo is an om­nibus of three shorts sched­uled to hit cine­mas this De­cem­ber, has the last word on cre­ativ­ity: “In the end it comes back to cam­paign­ing for lo­cal film pri­mar­ily be­cause the in­ter­est is no doubt there. Peo­ple want to see them­selves; their sto­ries up on the big screen.” CEO, En­finiti Vi­sion Me­dia The day starts with … Your best friend would say you’re … Lessons your fa­ther taught you?

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