She is a model, an actress, director and producer. Having appeared in countless TV shows and catwalks around the country and internationally, Iffat Umar needs no introduction. In an exclusive interview with The Saturday Post, she tells us how she began her career and how she finds the time to balance work, home and motherhood all at the same time!
1. How would you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us about where you grew up, education and family.
My name is Iffat Rahim Umar, I am a former model turned Producer-Director-Actress-Anchor. Currently, most of my work is related to acting which is primarily due to the fact that I feel I am good at it, and secondly because I think I can balance it very easily with my family life.
I grew up in the lovely and historic city of Lahore, which according to most people is also the cultural capital of Pakistan. I have travelled elaborately throughout the world and have stayed for an extended period of time in Europe and the Middle East, but I think I am in my element when I am in Lahore. I just love the city and of course all my childhood and teenage memories are associated with it. I went to school (Esena Foundation, Gulberg), college (Lahore College for Women) and university (Punjab University) here. I have a masters degree in Fine Arts with a Gold Medal in Film Making, which for me is my biggest educational achievement.
I was raised as a single child by my mother, who has been a constant inspiration and a role model for me all my life. She has been the anchor who has supported me through my early childhood until the time I was wise enough to distinguish between right and wrong, and I owe her greatly for that.
I fell in love with Umar and had a fairy tale wedding about ten years ago. We are blessed with a seven year daughter, Noor-e-Jehan, and as the name signifies she is the light of our lives.
2. When and how did you get into modeling and acting?
My modeling career began out of the blue, when one of the leading photographers saw one of my pictures from some school function and invited me for a shoot. My first shoot turned out to be a big hit at that time and my career just took off.
Acting came later when I was offered a lead role in a play, which I took just to try it out. That too was greatly appreciated by the critics as well as the masses, and I slowly made the transition from modeling to acting.
3. Did your family support your decision to model and act or did they oppose it?
My mother was very strict but professional in her outlook. She had the foresight to see that I could make a career out of show-biz. Her only reservation was that I must complete my education along with my professional commitments. Once she saw that I could do both, she supported me all the way. Similarly, Umar wanted a balance between work and family life and once we reached that balance he has been supporting me thoroughly.
4. You have a background in fine arts, why didn’t you pursue a career in arts?
Well, in a way I am pursuing a career in fine arts. I have produced/directed more then ten docudramas on fashion, history of film and biographies of actors and actresses belonging to the sub-continent. Some of these are divas & gurus, Chand Chera and Zikr Us Pari Wash Ka have been declared as masterpieces by the national press and are highly appreciated.
5. You have worked with countless designers, who is your favorite and why?
That’s an easy one; I would say Omar Saeed because there is no one who makes clothes better than him. I actually recommend that his work should be put in a museum because it’s out of this world!
6. How many TV serials and shows you have worked in and which is your most memorable?
That’s a toughie because seriously I have lost count, but I think a ball park figure would be around 50. The most memorable, at least for me, is Banoo Ko Pahchano which was written and directed by Salman Shahid.
7. A lot of models have turned to acting, does acting come naturally to models or do TV people just approach models in general?
It’s actually a bit of both. We have to be honest; show-biz is still considered a taboo by most segments of Pakistani society. So girls who have, so as to say, crossed the threshold are the ones who are in modeling and are always easy to approach. However, acting is not a natural extension of modeling, most models try, but don’t cut it. So I wouldn’t say that it comes naturally to them, although it might give them an advantage.
8. You are a working woman, a wife and a mother; how do you balance all these roles?
By keeping my priorities in order i.e., family and then work. It’s not easy, but once you get your priorities right everything else falls in place. Although in my case it was a little easier because my mother and then my husband both have supported me in my career. I also make it a point to not take on too much work, and what ever work I do, I finish by 8 or 9 in the evening so that I can be at home when my daughter goes to sleep.
9. What advice would you give to the young people who want to enter modeling and acting?
It’s a good career with a lot of opportunities, but also a lot of pitfalls if you don’t keep your head up straight. So go for it, but tread with care.
I was raised as a single child by my mother, who has been a constant inspiration and a role model for me all my life.