The world of glamor and entertainment has many poignant faces but there are just a few who manage to leave a mark with their versatility, uniqueness and the ability to speak their mind. Iffat Omar is one such name. Having ruled the modeling industry with her unmatchable sass and style, the model turned actress had taken on several memorable roles and projects, and with the same fire and zeal, she is back as she continues to impress with her acting chops while also being vocal and expressive over matters which others might shy away from speaking on. Unfiltered and unapologetic, Social Diary sat down with this incredibly happening personality to reminisce about the golden era of television, how she is able to call spade a spade and what more can we expect to see her in this year. Read On!
SD: Looking at how things have changed from Pakistan’s golden days of glamor and entertainment, what is it that you feel most nostalgic about ?
Iffat: I miss it as much as I miss my youth! Those days our work was our passion. It was more than just a profession. Everyone was committed to proving themselves. Away from all the diva-led behavior of having vanity vans and entourages, it was all about what we could do and there was just raw energy behind our work!
SD: Considering the kind of changes that have come into the field of modeling, how do you consider its progression in terms of exposure and stance?
Iffat: Things have gone downhill. In our days, you could say models were like celebrities in their own right. They would own the commercials and modeling campaigns they would be signed on for. See nowadays, while the models may have the global look and physique but what they lack is personality. I can actually just name a few that completely stand out like Mushk Kaleem or Amna Babar. I am not even aware of the majority of them all. Our days, it was our reign. Actors would stick to acting and we would be able to hold onto a celebrity title which was distinctive. Now actors have become models so the grace and glamor which was solely relating to modeling has tarnished in many ways. It isn’t a niche anymore; everything is blending together.
SD: Was it always a conscious thought to transgress into acting when you made your mark in modeling?
Iffat: It was truly a natural progression. I was the first model who made modeling famous. Be it the Jang magazine shoots, or having made my appearance in The News- these would get sent door-to-door making me a household name and allowing girls to finally come out their shells and get a boost that well-educated girls can also come into this field and make their mark. However when it comes to acting, it did take me a while to prove myself as people assumed that having a pretty face meant you have zero acting skills. So I had to break that cliche frame of mind.
SD: When you look at both the industries, which was more satisfying – modeling or acting?
Iffat: Honestly speaking I was very young when I started modeling. I was hardly fifteen when I did my first shoot. It was very natural. I didn’t think much of it. However I did pursue my Masters alongside going on vans and buses for shoots. Looking back, I used to enjoy modeling more. We were all like a group of friends traveling together and working together, including the photographers and makeup artists who would join us for fashion shows. In comparison acting is difficult and hectic.
SD: And how do you consider the world of acting and modeling has evolved?
Iffat: Plainly put, things have definitely changed. Social media is that platform that allows anyone, and I mean anyone, to become a so-called celebrity in an instant. It’s unbelievable how much cheap and mediocre persona you bring on, becoming your sureshot ticket to gaining attention and popularity. Those who do have talent and those who don’t, they all have come parallel to one another and that is a scary concept.
SD: Let’s now talk of your role in the hit drama series “Aye Musht-e-Khaak”. You have publicly voiced against its violence. How did you come on board in the first place?
Iffat: See the thing is when you read a script, you look at how a scene has been written out and you visualize how to act it out. I would have done much of what the lead actor of the drama was given in a non-violent way. It really depends on how an actor will conceive the dialogues. When I saw the slap sequence in the series, I did speak against it. However no one likes to listen to the advice of someone else, that too of a woman. Unfortunately I didnt know violence would be a major part of this drama.
SD: How did your being vocal help ?
Iffat: There are so many things you learn with time. I have just turned 50 and through my years and experience in this industry, I can proudly own my ability to say what I feel unapologetically. My speaking out against it is something which will hopefully make the actor in question also realize and make wiser decisions in the future when it comes to the roles they portray and how they portray them. We are living in scary times. It is important we don’t glamorize politically incorrect information. It is easy to have a handsome man slap a woman and still end up getting her in the end. What does that suggest? There should be awareness. What will happen at the most if I’m calling spade a spade? I will lose work but atleast I have my conscience and that is what matters.
SD: Being unapologetic about your mind and thoughts, so it does come at a cost..
Iffat: I have seen how because of me being outspoken, people’s behavior has been changing towards me where they become uncomfortable with me. I used to do a show on PTV for the past 15 years which was taken from me due to my being satire and outspoken against the government and regime. But that doesn’t impact me. My work will come when Iffat Omar is needed for a specific role which only she can provide justice to. I have no intentions of making this field better or putting in my share. There are people who are doing good work here already. However it is my full responsibility in choosing my scripts carefully and not making mistakes in that.
SD: You also spoke against the rather hyped Pak-turk collaboration, why do you think it’s not a wise decision?
Iffat: Point is Turkey is not our culture, it does not represent our history and I believe times have changed. Warriors and fighters should not be our heroes anymore. In today’s time we need people like Malala to be celebrated, our own scientists who are doing something to pursue the stature of Pakistan. What are we gaining from showcasing historic war scenes, glamorized with warriors on horses, putting villages up in flames. In these times we should be voicing against violence.
SD: Considering your work as a director, would you consider even creating something which promotes our heroes worth getting the limelight?
Iffat: I consider myself as a mediocre artist and don’t have the talent to take on such mega projects. But I believe talent like Nadeem Baig and Asim Raza can do it and I strongly feel it is their responsibility to do so. I am at this age where I am not keen to prove myself and my capabilities. I am satisfied and content with what I have done.
SD: Looking at how certain dramas and stories, like Dobara, have allowed the protagonist to shine out from that cliche framework, do you think times will allow senior artists to get better, meatier roles?
Iffat: It’s plain simple. My time has gone. There are just a few bunch of people out there who probably admire your work and skills. You will notice how there are so many contradictory statements to what ageism is. In anyone’s career, it is possible that you may get 3-4 such meaty roles in later years but that’s entirely on luck. It’s not a standard work frame. Hadiqa Kiani has got to portray good roles for now but who’s to say what the future holds? Will she be willing to carry out those typical mom roles? The roles of substance are very limited for our age group. I have already announced my semi-retirement and I will now be taking on roles which are of substance and suit to my requirements.