I do not give interviews and that is how it has been since the day I entered this field. I do not feel the need for interviews, neither do I go for photo sessions as I've never wanted this kind of exposure. I want journalists to get this message through your interview that I do not want them to approach me. And what's more I charge money for giving interviews. I don't mind if people call me a pagal but I do have responsibilities and a family to look after," says Noman Ijaz taking one by surprise with such a blunt statement.
He justifies himself for being weary of journalists by saying:
"Eveningers are always printing rumours about me being shacked up with a couple of ladies in a hotel in Karachi. My wife once read out a news item to me which stated that I was completely drunk accompanied by Nirma, and hollering to my heart's content. Since my wife trusts me, she actually laughed at the story. Had she been distrustful I could have by now said goodbye to my family life for good. It's true of journalists that their friendship, just as their enmity, is equally dangerous."
At this point I had to interject the question as to how I was given the 'honour' for and interview and that too without paying. Noman Ijaz reassures that it is due to Sultana Siddiqui, "who by the way is not Sultana apa but amma to me.
"We enjoy a very special bond. The first time I saw her I saw shafqat on her face. Since then, she has been amma for me. Leikain amma sey phaday bhi hotay hain."
Noman first worked with Sultana Siddiqui a some years ago in Doosri Dunya. The next time he was contacted for another project he refused to go ahead with it as, "we could not strike a deal when it came to money. This time when amma contacted me for Wafa Key Mausam I quoted my amount and she acquiesced. And so I'm working with her again." He cites it as an interesting experience since, "working with experimented artists with fun, and Marina Khan is a jolly soul to be with."
Was it the cast, script or director that made him go for the serial?
"My criterion for accepting any project is money. I am not interested in who the director or scriptwriter is. It is money and only money that determines which project to go for."
That's Noman Ijaz for you - love it or leave it.
On his modus operandi he says, "Unfortunately I work very professionally. If I give a producer dates I will be there punctually without fail. But if I say eight days I won't be found on the ninth day as I am already committed elsewhere. As for payment, I need the decided amount the same day and do not believe in instalments. Mein ney koi committee to nahin dali na."
Isn't he a bit too full of himself?
"Not really," he answers. "Once you get to know me you will think differently. I do not allow disrespect from others. That's something the new entrants need to learn - to be respectful towards their elders. When on the sets I create humour as I am basically humorous. People working with me will vouch that they have a good time. And that's how I am in my personal life too."
Noman's wife has also made her entrance in TV plays with him, besides modelling in commercials.
"She is happy with choice of career and I don't have any problems when she acts. And no it does not always have to be with me. But I know she won't go for it."
He is particularly fond of his two sons and says they are free to choose any career for themselves when they grow up. "I don't mind if they come in this profession but I will definitely mind if they waste their time being actors in Pakistan," comes the juxtaposed reply. Does that mean he has wasted his life? "Yes, and I am continuing doing so. But at least nobody in this field can play hanky panky with me as I know how to handle people." That's the lawyer side of the artist speaking, which was repressed after two years of law practising.
"The other actors are always intimidated by the directors and producers and do not defy them as they are scared of not being cast by them again. When these production teams go abroad or place in Pakistan, the cast is usually dumped together in hotel rooms to save on expenses. Nobody dare dump me in a room with others," reveals Noman triumphantly, his eyes gleaming.
He hopes that all the actors come together on a platform to hire lawyers who can take care of their contracts for them. "This would make life a whole lot easier." When talking about PTV he says, "Even today you sign on blank contracts and the amount is filled in later. I have spent one quarter of my age here. The rest that's left, be it five, ten or fifteen years will be spent here too."
Why such a short time? we inquire. "The kind of tensions we have to go through here it would be a miracle to live long." How come he never jumped into films then? "There is no money there at all. You'd be surprised at the amount they offer you and our artists work for that amount. "I really wouldn't mind doing a film in India if somebody offered me a role. But never in Pakistan as they are worse than the overflowing gutter."
The very next minute Noman Ijaz contradicts himself by saying, "I was offered a couple of ventures but when it came to money we could not strike a deal."
So much for the gutter!
And to think this is the same Noman Ijaz, who was given insignificant roles in the beginning of his career. Persistence and perseverance can take you far. Called on to TV for a role for the first time, he was obviously excited at the prospect and went at the appointed hour.
"A number of leading stars were present. I went and sat down. I was handed the script and was told about the character I was to play. I checked the script from one end to the other end but could not find my character. I rechecked and told them it wasn't there. The reply was, 'check page number 29'.
It was a single dialogue: Yeh lo rakh lo - that was all I had to deliver. I was dumbstruck. Was this for real? However, I took the script home and pondered over it, to do or not to do? Then I thought why not? And so I did. The next time again it was a one liner. And this continued for a couple of times. The fifth time, however, I got the lead.
Since that time it's been nothing but the lead for Noman. Quite a few of his serials are being aired simultaneously. Isn't that overexposure? "There's nothing such as overexposure. Once you're exposed then what? How well you succeed in portraying each character differently shows your expertise."
Once Noman Ijaz gets down to talking there's no reining him or his thoughts. He quite often says during the interview, "All that I say is on record. None of it is off the record."