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Updated: November 24, 2013 17:04 IST
Reel time

The forgotten star

SAJU CHELANGAD
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P. K. Rosy
The Hindu P. K. Rosy

In the history of Malayalam cinema, P. K. Rosy remains a teardrop. Her experience, her suffering, is perhaps the only one of its kind in world cinema. Her story is linked with the people, who, instead of celebrating the first feature film in their language, turned their wrath on the film, the filmmaker, and Rosy. And the reason for their anger was because Rosy or Rosamma, who played the female lead in the first-ever Malayalam film Vigathakumaran, was a Dalit.

Rosy was born into a humble Dalit family that later converted into Christianity. That was how her name changed from Rajammal to Rosamma. They lived at Thycaud, Thiruvananthapuram.

J. C. Daniel, who was looking out for a girl to play the female lead in his Vigathakumaran, was informed about Rosy by one of his friends, Johnson. In fact, Johnson played the villain in this film. Daniel, who was in a spot of bother following the return of Lana, the original choice for the role, approached Rosy with the offer of the role.

Stunned, and also a bit suspicious about the whole idea, Rosy did not give Daniel an answer. Her parents, who worked in a church, were willing to send their daughter only because the daily wages offered to her by Daniel were good.

Rosy used to walk to the location reaching there by nine in the morning and walk back home late in the evening. Before leaving the location her duties included cleaning up the kitchen and vessels there. She was paid five rupees every day.

Not a seasoned actor, Rosy simply obeyed Daniel’s instructions. The film was completed much to the satisfaction of Daniel. But there was trouble in store for him. The people who came to watch the first show at the Capitol Theatre, Trivandrum, were aghast to see a Dalit girl in the film. Those were days of rigid social taboos. Women were rarely seen in public let alone act in a film. So, they found Rosy’s bold act a challenge to the accepted social systems. They created a ruckus in the theatre, even burning down the screen. Rosy was heckled and her family ostracised. Once, Rosy even survived an attack against her when she went with her mother to the Chala market.

It is said that all this pained the then Regent, who ruled the State of Travancore. She sent some policemen to guard her home. But, a huge mob defied the security and burned down her hut. Her parents were manhandled. With the mob in full pursuit Rosy managed to escape in a truck headed to Nagercoil.

Nothing is known about what later happened to the first heroine of Malayalam cinema. However, recently, some journalists came out with facts about Rosy. It is believed that she lived at Oottupura Theruvu in Nagercoil town and died in the early 1990s. Her son and daughter, now live in Nagercoil and Madurai respectively.

sajuchelangad@gmail.com

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