P. K. Rosy
|P. K. Rosy|
P K Rosy in 1928
P K Rosy (Rajamma, Rosamma, Rajammal), a Dalit (purportedly a Christian) woman, was the first heroine of the first Malayalam language movie Vigathakumaran (The Lost Child), directed by J. C. Daniel. She played the character of a Nair woman "Sarojini" in the movie.
Well before she was "discovered" in 1928 by the director J.C. Daniel she was already an experienced actor, skilled in a form of Tamil Dalit theatre called Kaakarashi. However, Dalits in Indian society have been historically ostracized from "mainstream" professions, relegated to the most degrading occupations and deemed spiritually polluting to touch. When Vigathukumaran was released, members of the feudal Nair community were enraged to see a Dalit woman portray a Nair woman. Many eminent members of the film industry at the time refused to come and inaugurate the opening of Vigathakumaran if Rosy was to be physically present there. The director, J. C. Daniel, himself didn't invite her to the opening at Capitol theatre in Thiruvananthapuram, fearing backlash. But Rosy had attended anyway, but was made to watch a second showing instead by lawyer who refused to inaugurate the film until she left.
Amidst this tense atmosphere, the crowd finally hit their breaking point when one scene in the film showed her lover kissing a flower she wore in her hair. It was unthinkable that an untouchable woman could be touched publicly. Enraged, the largely feudal caste audience began to riot and vandalize the theatre, tear down the movie screens and proceeded to hunt down Rosy for the next three days. In the ensuing violence, they burned down her house. Rosy still managed to escape the angry crowd.
Reports state that she fled in a lorry that was headed to Tamil Nadu, married the lorry driver, Kesavan Pillai and lived her life quietly in Tamil Nadu as "Rajammal". During her lifetime, Rosy was never publicly acknowledged as a historic and pioneering actress of her time.
Today, the Kerala government plans to undo some of the wrongs, revive her memories, and honour her work by instating a film award sponsored by the state government in her name.
In 2013, Kamal directed a biopic on J. C. Daniel, titled Celluloid. The film is partially based on the novel Nashta Naayika by Vinu Abraham, also deals with the life of Rosy, the lead actress in Vigathakumaran. Newcomer Chandni Geetha portrays Rosy. Two other films about her life have also been made including The Lost Child and Ithu Rosiyude Katha (This is Rosy’s Story).
She was born to Paulose and Kunji, as Rosamma, in 1903 at Nandankode, Trivandrum to a Pulaya family. Her living relatives confirm her father passed away when she was very young leaving her family steeped in poverty. Her younger years were spent as a grass-cutter. But they also remember her incredible affinity towards the arts from when she was very young. The Lost Child, recalls how Rosy used to love acting in plays and rehearsing at the kalari school.
During those days, acting was often not a woman's work and women who considered acting as a serious profession were labeled licentious or "loose". Rosy's love for acting seems to have surpassed concerns she may have held for what society would call her.
Rosy's courage as the first woman and the first Dalit woman actress in South India stands.[original research?]
Her family was said to have converted to Christianity and changed their name from Rajamma to Rosamma, and that she herself was a Christrian. Vinu Abraham, the screenplay writer of Celluloid, as well as the author of the book on which it is based, said that his research found that Rosy’s family had converted. But Members of her family disputed the assertion she was Christian saying that it was only her father who converted (in order to be able to send her to school).
- P K Rosy & the History Behind Archived 11 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
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