THE TRUTH ABOUT BRONT PALARAE

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - THE BAZAAR MAN -

to find truth in art it­self. Fresh off shoot­ing Half­worlds, an HBO Asia orig­i­nal se­ries di­rected by Joko An­war, a pro­lific In­done­sian film en­thu­si­ast and prac­ti­tioner, shot en­tirely in Jakarta, fea­tur­ing other prom­i­nent In­done­sian ac­tors such as Arifin Pu­tra, Reza Ra­ha­dian, Aimee Saras and Adinia Wi­rasti, Bront says he plays a cop trapped be­tween the world of hu­mans and de­mons. “So I get to wear rain­coats and speak with an In­done­sian ac­cent.”

This is some­what fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory for Bront, per­haps his very rai­son d’être is to pro­voke the es­tab­lished main­stream. His im­pres­sive reper­toire in­cludes Bi­lut, 2006; Anak Halal, 2007; Kala Malam Bu­lan Mengam­bang, 2008; Belukar, 2010; – for which he won the Best Ac­tor award at the 23rd Malaysia Film Fes­ti­val and the Anugerah Skrin 2010 – Dain Said’s dis­turb­ing thriller Buno­han: Re­turn to Mur­der, 2012; Psiko: Pen­curi Hati, 2013; and Anak Jan­tan, 2014. Bront’s char­ac­ters court the au­di­ence with come-hither eyes and a frag­ile open­ness, be­fore glee­fully stick­ing the knife in and twist­ing it. In ev­ery­thing that he does, he por­trays an al­ter­na­tive ver­sion of the Malay man. In some ways, he por­trays him­self – a true non-con­form­ist who pushes bound­aries.

I knew Bront from back in 2010 when he was a part of an ensem­ble cast of I Eat KL, a Sex and the Ci­ty­ish ro­man­tic com­edy se­ries re­volv­ing around food. I was the stylist of the show and two things struck me im­me­di­ately about him – he speaks re­ally good English and how well he car­ries ev­ery look en­vi­sioned. “That was fun, wasn’t it? Ev­ery­one was re­ally up for it. I think that was the first time that any­one no­ticed that I could do other lan­guages be­sides Malay.” In fact, Bront speaks three lan­guages flu­ently, adding Thai into the list. “I ap­pre­ci­ate good scripts, things that are writ­ten with panache, and that was what lured me to­wards I Eat KL. I re­alised that if I was go­ing to amuse my­self with this ca­reer choice long enough to make a liv­ing out of it, I have to start mak­ing smart choices. The devil is in the de­tails and these choices are morse code for so much.”

And he did just that. Bront’s own highs and lows in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try be­gan in 2000 when he was casted by Oth­man Ali to play a char­ac­ter in Ma­mat Khalid’s Merdeka drama spe­cial, Mat Nor Kushairi & The Vel­vet Boys. “It may sound ter­ri­bly self­ish but hon­estly I fell in love with act­ing, with money as my big­gest mo­ti­va­tion. The more I do it, the eas­ier I see how I can make money out of it. Ma­mat Khalid, who saw my po­ten­tial, of­fered me an in­tern­ship to work in pro­duc­tion and at the same time, act in his movie, Lang Buana, 2003. As a boy work­ing in pro­duc­tion, you have to run around mak­ing sure that the stars are well taken care of and that their needs are met, while as an ac­tor, you get to sit com­fort­ably in a pri­vate area and have your make-up done, all while ex­pect­ing your lunch to be de­liv­ered to you. I would pick the lat­ter any day. The thrill of act­ing and the re­al­i­sa­tion that I could make a dif­fer­ence came much later.”

His in­tense char­ac­ter has made him the sub­ject of end­less im­age-mak­ing, prod­uct en­dorse­ments, and cov­ers of some of the big­gest men’s mag­a­zines in Malaysia. On the day of the in­ter­view, he matched dirty pink chino shorts from Sa­coor Broth­ers (a brand that he en­dorsed) with a white vintage T-shirt, ex­ud­ing the per­fect sum­mer look en­velop­ing his tall and lanky body. His beard, which he has been keep­ing for a while now, sug­gest the wilds of Patag­o­nia. A pair of sun­nies sits el­e­gantly on his sharp Bowie-es­que cheek­bones. The whole look spoke of easy, manly good taste. “On a nor­mal day, I don’t see my­self as overtly stylish, pre­fer­ring in­stead to opt for com­fort. But I try my best at all times not to look sloppy be­cause I do care. If I could have it my way, I would dress my­self in Jil San­der and Hel­mut Lang ev­ery day.”

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