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P. K. Rosy (Rajamma, Rosamma, Rajammal) was an Indian actress in Malayalam cinema. Her Pulaya (Dalit) caste background caused controversy. She was the heroine of Vigathakumaran (The Lost Child), directed by J. C. Daniel. She was the first heroine in Malayalam cinema and the first Dalit actress in Indian cinema.
She was born to Paulose and Kunji, as Rajamma, in 1903 at Nandankode, Trivandrum to a Pulaya family. Her living relatives confirm that her father died when she was very young leaving her family steeped in poverty. Her younger years were spent as a grass-cutter. She was also very interested in the arts and was encouraged in this by her uncle, who found for her a teacher for music and acting. She also regularly went to the local school of performing arts to study Kakkirasi Nattakam, a form of Tamil folk theatre in a mix of Tamil and Malayalam revolving around stories of Siva and Parvati arriving on Earth as nomads.
During those days, acting was typically 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.
Of the origin of her name “Rosy,” many claim her family converted to Christianity and changed her name from Rajamma to Rosamma. However others claim it was Daniel who gave her a more ‘glamorous’ name. Members of her family dispute the claim she converted one nephew saying “To send Rosy to study, he converted to Christianity at the LMS Church. That was the basis on which children were given education in those days. No one else had converted. Her mother lived as a Hindu.”
By 1928, she had become skilled in Kaakirasi. From this she stepped in to become the heroine of JC Daniel’s film after his first prospective heroine proved unsuited for the role. She played the character of Sarojini, a Nair woman, in the movie. When Vigathukumaran was released, members of the Nair community were enraged to see a Dalit woman portray a Nair. 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, including the famous lawyer Madhoor Govindan Pillai. Following a scene in which the main character kissed a flower in her hair, the audience threw stones at the screen. The director, Daniel, himself didn’t invite her to the opening at Capitol theatre in Thiruvananthapuram, fearing a backlash. But Rosy had attended anyway, but was still made to watch a second showing by those boycotting the event.
Due to her “crime” of acting as a Nair, her home was reportedly burnt down by upper castes. Reports then 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”. Her children knew nothing of her brief stardom other than she was a theatre artist and currently live as Nairs, Pillai’s caste.
The story of the film was first rediscovered in the late 1960s by Chengalatt Gopalakrishnan while in 1971 Kunnukuzhi published his first article about her.
In 2013, Kamal directed a biopic on Daniel, titled Celluloid. The film is partially based on the novel Nashta Naayika by Vinu Abraham, and also deals with the life of Rosy. Newcomer Chandni Geetha portrays her. It faced criticism for portraying Rosy as mindless and submissive to upper castes. Two other films about her life have also been made: The Lost Child and Ithu Rosiyude Katha (This is Rosy’s Story). A society of women actors in Malayalam cinema named itself the PK Rosy film society.
Taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._K._Rosy