From Mam­bau to Hol­ly­wood

Co­me­dian and TV host Na­bil Ahmad says his Os­cars ex­pe­ri­ence has changed him for the bet­ter, writes Syahi­rah Mokhtazar

New Straits Times - - Groove - syahi­rah.mokhtazar@nst.com.my

WHEN Na­bil Ahmad at­tended the 89th Academy Awards for HBO in Hol­ly­wood ear­lier this year, he had the priv­i­lege of in­ter­view­ing an ar­ray of A-list celebri­ties on the red car­pet. Although each in­ter­view de­serves a story of its own, some clearly stood out more than oth­ers.

Na­bil jokes that Salma Hayek had said that he looks like her fu­ture hus­band. “Seems like I have another rea­son to go back to Hol­ly­wood!” he says, with a laugh.

On a more se­ri­ous note, the co­me­dian re­calls advice given to him by Datuk Jackie Chan, when asked about how the actor made it to Hol­ly­wood. “Jackie says you don’t have to chase Hol­ly­wood. If you do good in your coun­try, Hol­ly­wood will come to you. Those words re­ally touched me and mo­ti­vate me to be bet­ter in my ca­reer,” says Na­bil.

The for­mer dis­patch boy-turned­co­me­dian and now TV host has come a long way since win­ning Raja Lawak Sea­son

2 back in 2008. “I never thought my ca­reer would lead me from Mam­bau, Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan to the red car­pet at the Os­cars in Hol­ly­wood,” he says.

“I am proud of my­self be­cause I know where I be­gan. Peo­ple as­so­ci­ate Raja

Lawak co­me­di­ans with those in­ca­pable of speak­ing English well, so when I was se­lected to rep­re­sent HBO at the Os­cars, my friends in the in­dus­try were so proud of me. I’m very thank­ful for that.”

TIME TO BE ON TIME

Na­bil did not only bring back a mon­ey­can’t-buy-ex­pe­ri­ence from the Os­cars, he also ob­served how Hol­ly­wood ex­e­cuted the pres­ti­gious event so ef­fi­ciently. “Peo­ple were ex­tremely ef­fi­cient and punc­tual. In the world of pro­duc­tion, be it for TV, film or a big event like this, punc­tu­al­ity is cru­cial.

“The event started and ended on time. When they said TV host Ryan Seacrest would be walk­ing on the red car­pet at 11am, the red car­pet would be cleared for him to walk at 11am sharp. I think this is some­thing we lack in our en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. Be­cause of what I ex­pe­ri­enced, I have learnt to be punc­tual as well. If you tell me my call time is at 9am, I will be there at 9am,” he says.

KID­DIE ENGLISH

Fans of Na­bil can catch him on HBO Sen­tral, a TV show that serves as a fun, in­ter­ac­tive guide to Hol­ly­wood movies and award­win­ning HBO Orig­i­nals show­cased on Astro.

Now into its Sea­son 4, Na­bil took over from ac­tress Lisa Suri­hani, who was the show’s host in Sea­son 1. “I’m ex­cited to be back to of­fer view­ers at home more in­ter­ac­tive con­tent. We’ve got games, con­tests, guests artistes and so much more.

“It’s chal­leng­ing since I have to host in both Malay and English.”

Prior to the Os­cars, the 34-year-old says he took up English lan­guage classes. “My mother is an English teacher. But since she teaches at a kin­der­garten, my English was rather on the same level as kin­der­garten kids!

“Re­al­is­ing how ex­pen­sive the classes were be­com­ing, I de­cided to then just com­mu­ni­cate in English with my daugh­ter, who learns to speak it well from school.”

NA­BIL 2.0

His Os­cars stint has cer­tainly given him more con­fi­dence. Na­bil re­veals that he re­cently started his own pro­duc­tion house, Na­bil Pro­duc­tion, with a few friends who are in the in­dus­try. “My first pro­duc­tion, a sit­com ti­tled Bus Se­top, will air on Astro Warna on June 1,” he says, of the com­pany es­tab­lished six months ago.

“Work­ing be­hind the cam­era is my longterm ca­reer plan, as I wouldn’t want to stay in the lime­light for too long,” says Na­bil, be­fore adding, “I be­lieve that you should stop be­fore peo­ple stop you.”

But he’s not re­tir­ing any­time soon. Although he ad­mits that he’s a little ner­vous to show ev­ery­one his de­but project from his pro­duc­tion house, he is very thank­ful to have been given the chance by Astro to show what he can do be­hind the cam­era.

“When you’re in this field, you have to be smart be­cause there will al­ways be some­one bet­ter than you.”

“You should start ven­tur­ing into some­thing else so peo­ple still recog­nise your name.”

The 13 half-hour episodes of Bus Se­top will fea­ture a slew of stars in­clud­ing Sherry Al-Hadad, Ebby Yus, An­gah Raja Lawak and Ippo Hafiz. Ex­pect some cool guest artistes as well, such as rocker Datuk Ahmad Azhar Oth­man (Awie) and ac­tress Na­bila Huda.

“I am more con­fi­dent ven­tur­ing into dif­fer­ent things now. Af­ter con­quer­ing the red car­pet at the Os­cars, I feel like I can do any­thing. This is Na­bil rein­vented, this is Na­bil 2.0,” he says, flash­ing his megawatt smile.

Na­bil has come a long way since win­ning Raja Lawak Sea­son 2 back in 2008.

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