STORY OF CHANGELOOMER DEBGOPAL MANDAL
Lights, Camera, Action and the silver screen were the first words in his vocabulary. Speaking his heart out and reaching the heart of the audience using just some moving pictures was his way of speaking. And he spoke valiantly.
Born and brought up in Birbhum, West Bengal, DebGopal was leading a normal life as a student when he discovered his passion, but also had an insight into something more. In due time he experienced a changing sexual proclivity within himself. His mind and actions developed a compassion and attraction towards individuals of the same sex. Though Debgopal accepted this change gracefully, the world did not. Day by day, the unhealthy taunts and gestures kept on increasing and so did his loneliness. Despite being a bright student, he had to drop out of college because of the non-acceptance he received from his fellow batch mates. Did it stop him? No.
Debgopal’s dreams were more powerful than the negativity of the world. He came out of his village and got settled in Kolkata where he started working in the Bengal film industry. In 2008, he got his first opportunity to assist a renowned Director, Mr. D.K.Roy. Even the film industry did not spare him of their sophisticated ridicules. His journey continued and in the Year 2012, he participated in the social campaign initiated by PRAVAH, an organization working to impact issues of social justice through youth citizenship action on “Filmmaking against Underage Violence”. His passion earned him merits as his short film “Homosexual Marriages” received laurels and made front page news in various newspapers. Now there was no looking back. The journey of success for him had begun!
His active participation with PRAVAH associated him with “Prantakatha” Here on the insults faded away and the acceptance grew. Debgopal found his new family where he can be what he truly was. His work was rewarded with a CHANGELOOMS Fellowship. Hereon he decided to work with a community which is facing a tremendous amount of discrimination in the society. Those who are considered as untouchables just because they are homosexuals – THE BHAADU COMMUNITY. Despite having a rich culture and heritage, they are isolated from the society because of their abnormal sexual orientation. He empathized with their situation which made him more focused to spread their stories and sensitize the mass against this discrimination and injustice, through his world of cinema. After an immense amount of resistance from the Bhaadu community, Debgopal managed to win their hearts by his conviction and scripted his screenplay for a film. His work elevated when he got associated with UNMANIFESTO – which was a nationwide campaign initiated by CYC- PRAVAH and supported by UNFPA in the year 2014 and was run for a period of 3 months in 2015. With the objective of engaging youth participation in the political process, bringing social inclusion and effectively involving government bodies for a change, this campaign ran across 20 states and Union Territories of the country. This campaign helped him in presenting a Charter of demands of the ‘Bhaadu Community’ amongst various Block Division Officers.
The foremost demand was to recognize the art form of this community as the Heritage Art Form of India so that it can flourish. During UNMANIFESTO, Debgopal also managed to get identity cards issued to the Bhaadu Community members. In the year 2015, he published more manifests regarding proper schemes and stipend payment for the community. These efforts brought him in contact with Maria Fernandez, Head of the Minority Commission, West Bengal, who also looked after the project KANYASHREE – a flagship programme which crystallized women empowerment. UNMANIFESTO helped the Bhaadu community to bring out their work and culture as they started performing at different block levels to promote the above flagship.
His work brought massive changes in stereotypical perspectives. All those people who commented on his changed sexual orientation came forward to help him and the BHAADU community. SAHITYA ASHAR NATYA GROUP which had refused to help him for the community’s cultural upliftment, asked the Bhaadus to work with them. Debgopal has formed a Film Maker’s Group named “Roop ontor Kotha” which has 18 members and more pouring in. His plan for this year is to create a BIRBHUM BHAADU ARTIST FORUM which will help Bhaadus to swirl their identity and recognition in this society. The UNMANIFESTO campaign helped him raise a long lost voice and bring about a positive change in the lives of many.
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