THE TRUTH ABOUT BRONT PALARAE
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.”