Garnering more than a decade’s worth of experience in the Malaysian entertainment scene, Bront Palarae could be considered a veteran. The celebrity who is of Malay, Pakistani, Punjabi and Siamese descent opens up to Top 10 of Malaysia on the path leading him to show business, playing the role ‘Rahman’ in Malaysian box office hit Ola Bola, and how he thought up his screen name.
You might have been asked this question before, but how did you get into show business?
I studied a filmmaking course without majors, so we did part-time work in various positions for pocket money and experience. Normally, we get crew or production assistant jobs, but one day came a casting call for Mamat Khalid’s NTV7 Merdeka Special Tele-movie produced by Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina. They needed young actors, and the Casting Director, Osman Ali from Ombak Rindu offered us an audition. Most of us went, few made it. So, we have the three of them to thank for this.
Was there any defining moment?
It came from a short film by Bernard Chauly in an episode of 3R, an episode revolving around 3 friends overcoming grief for their roommate who recently committed suicide. A month later, Bernard told me he received a thank you letter from an audience telling how he was on the brink of committing suicide but changed his mind after watching that episode.
What were your thoughts on playing “Rahman” in Ola Bola, and what kind of research have you done?
The role wasn’t based on any particular commentator, but on paying homage to all passionate commentators. Chiu and I tried finding the right balance between drama and fun, to play a character that will get audiences on the same page.
4 of us went through the fundamental radio commentary classes provided by Abdullah Hashim. After learning the technique, we realised it was slow-paced and grew concerned as the Final Act is going to be some 20 minutes. Chiu then suggested a Latin style of goal celebration and he tried it. The moments were more dynamic and it translated well on screen.
How do you feel about Ola Bola’s box office performance?
When Chiu approached me for Ola Bola, his passion and vision got me. It’s a story that needed to be told, and fortunately it was well told, so I was relieved because the film had a massive price tag and needed to succeed at box-office for studios to pay attention to these sort of films.
What are some of the challenges of directing?
The challenge lies in cultivating cinema culture within our society. Finding the right material is not difficult, but gathering support is a challenge.
Are you prepared to take the director seat for some years?
Acting allows me to work with good directors and tap into their skills. I learned more on sets than anywhere else, working with Mamat Khalid, Osman Ali, Dain Said, Uwei Haji Saari, Kabir Kahtia, Joko Anwar, Mo Brothers and Upi. I was a part of their creative process, and that’s what I’ll take to my set, so yes, acting has provided me with a good grounding.
What can you tell us about your latest project, “Dawn Raid”, based on the event of Guthrie Plantation?
It’s the only piece of history that most Malaysians never knew, and the only time we beat our post-colonial masters in their own backyard. Cinematically I want to transport everyone back into the world of corporate espionage, something Malaysians haven’t had from our cinematic history.
How can the local film industry be better?
When you lag, you have to work doubly hard. For creative processes, you need to push boundaries and few are doing that. We’re developing projects with various independent filmmakers as we need more bold ideas. If the current establishment cannot serve that, we need to rise to the occasion.
What are the expectations you have for yourself?
Don’t get too high with the highs, or too low with the lows, and focus on the creative process
Another of which is, to take risk with materials but never with personnel.
Do you have a role model?
In general no, but as a professional I would love to emulate George Clooney’s filmography which entertains, yet conveys stories needed to be told like The Monuments Men and Argo. Brad Pitt and Plan B Entertainment are also taking that route with 12 Years a Slave, Moneyball, Fury and World War Z.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
On the same path career-wise, albeit with a better paycheck and more regional projects. I look forward to present more interesting stories to the Malaysian audience. On a personal level, being a better son, husband and father.
As a parting question, can you tell us about your screen name, Bront Palarae and the story behind it?
Bront is a name I grew up with, and Palarae is my mom’s family name. I combined both and adopted it as my stage name.