As Kamal Minnur struts before flashing cameras on the ramp, it is not apparent how long a way he has come.
The 18-year-old is from Babugachh village in Chopra block of North Dinajpur, near the Bangladesh border and about 40km from Islampur. In his village, one either works in the fields or in a tea garden. Modelling as a profession is unheard of.
Or it was, till Kamal decided to take off.
He has already taken part at a show in Siliguri recently where he bagged the top prize. He will attend a show in Bangalore in January.
He is also enrolled in a private school in Calcutta that trains young people to become flight crew attendants.
Kamal’s exposure to modelling came in 2011, when he moved in with his father, Taslimuddin, who works as a security guard of a nationalised bank in Islampur. He had come over to stay with his father after taking admission to the Plus II course at Islampur High School.
|Kamal Minnur on the ramp (above); the 18-year-old with his parents, father Taslimuddin and mother Mallika Kamal Begum, in Islampur. Pictures by Mehedi Hedaytullah
“Back in my village, I hardly got to watch television. When I moved in with my father, who lives in a rented room in Islampur, I was exposed to TV. I was fascinated by the fashion shows telecast on different channels. I felt in me an overwhelming urge to become a model. I discussed the matter with a close friend who said he knew someone in Siliguri who could help,” Kamal recounts.
He met the person in Siliguri, who took him to a modelling agency. Kamal felt tense as he felt that he was getting close to his world of dreams. Would he be able to break through?
“The agency first took my audition. It was a very tense moment. But I did not disappoint, either the agency or myself. This year I have participated in five ramp competitions and won the best spot in four of them. I am now eagerly waiting for the show in Bangalore,” he says.
Kamal said it was not easy, coming from an orthodox Muslim family. “On several occasions, my parents were criticised for what I was doing. But there has been no dearth of encouragement from them. They have always stood by me,” he says.
He has back-up, he says. “I am training as cabin crew. If I can’t make it as a model on the ramp I will definitely work on board an aircraft. Being up in the clouds has always been a fantasy ever since childhood when I saw aircraft flying overhead to unknown places,” Kamal adds.
Not that entering the modelling world made things easy. But he made friends.
“When I first visited the modelling agency and auditioned, I was told that there was a hefty charge for grooming. I told the agency people that I came from a very poor background and could not afford the amount. They listened to me and groomed me for free for a week, teaching me how to speak, different kinds of walks and different ways of handling different costumes,” he adds.
Baren Moitra, a member of the Siliguri agency, said Kamal’s potential had struck them the first day. “His natural talent struck us the day he walked into the office in August last year. He had a flair for the ramp and we were happy to help him. I also found it unique that a boy coming from his background can be so courageous. We are now preparing for the Bangalore show and I am confident that he will do well,” Moitra says.
Taslimuddin is proud of his boy.
“At first there was tremendous opposition from our family, especially my in-laws who said that walking the ramp was not the calling for a boy like Kamal. But I saw passion in what my son was doing and my wife and I agreed to allow him to pursue his dream. Let us see what he achieves finally,” the father says.