Need to popularize life and struggle of first Dalit actress in these times of ‘biopic’ cinema

rosy24-2By Sheshu Babu*

Many women have struggled to come up in the tinsel world of film industry. The #MeToo movement has exposed how domination of male led many women to terminate their careers or compromise and continue in the field. Being a Dalit woman makes it all the more difficult to survive. In the face of such uncomfortable conditions, PK Rosy (Rajamma, Rosamma, Rajammal)  bravely fought male hegemony and strong caste discrimination to make a name for herself as an excellent artist.

Early years 

Rosy (1903-88) was born to Paulose and Kunji as Rosamma at Nandankode village in Trivandrum in a Pulaya family. According to her relatives, her father passed away when she was very young leaving the family steeped in poverty (en.m.wikipedia.org). Her younger years were spent as a grass- cutter. But, she also showed great affinity to the art from her childhood. She learned ‘Kalari’ and acting with interest.

Kunnukuzhi Mani, a journalist was the first person to try and dig out the truth about Rosy’s life, including her involvement in the film ‘ Vigathakumaran’. In his words, “It was at N. N. Pillai’s theatre seminar in 1968 or 69  I think,  Kambesseri  Karunakaran (journalist actor and politician belonging to CPI) told me about a poor woman, a grass cutter who acted in the first film. I started investigating from then. Kambesseri gave me the information. He asked if I would do an investigation on this. I was a reporter then, an editor for the paper ‘Kalapremi’” (“The Name of the Rose”,  June 2013, thebigindianpicture.com).

He met relatives of both Rosy and director JC Daniel and then wrote his first article on Rosy in 1971 in his ‘ kalapremi’. Since he has written about her in Malayalam Magazines such as ‘ Chitrabhumi’, ‘Chandrika’ , Tejas’ , ‘Samakalina Masika’. She was shown in ‘ Celluloid’ as a Dalit Christian woman Rosamma. Daniel changed it to Rosy and later she changed as Rajammal.

Learning 

She learned ‘ Kakkarashi’ ( folk) dance drama when she was very young. She joined a drama company in Thycaud  Thiruvanantha puram and stayed with them. She went on to act in Daniel’ s film after becoming popular with her performances.

Director JC Daniel was in search of an actress for his film ‘ Vighatakumaran’ after a woman actress from Bombay who refused to act as he could not meet her demands. He saw Rosy’s performance in a play and was very much impressed. She did not know that the film would be shown to the public. She was paid Rs. 5 and acted for 10 days.

Screening problems

The film was screened in Capitol Theatre at Thiruvunanthapuram on November 7, 1928 but she was not invited by Daniel, the film director because he feared that it might be troublesome. Discrimination of Dalits and untouchability was prevalent and lower caste people were not allowed to enter the cinema halls.

Despite not being invited, she went to see the film. The disgruntled people recognised her. She ran away to Thycaud and took refuge in a building. She was chased away from there too. Her house was also reportedly set on fire. She was somehow rescued by a friend.

She never acted in films due to the pathetic situation she faced. Even a prominent lawyer Mallur Govindan Pillai refused to inaugurate the film.

Honours 

Later on, the Kerala government instituted an award on her name and praised her excellent performance. Vinu Abraham has written a novel . In 2013, ‘celluloid’ was made. It won 7 state awards. Her fame spread throughout the country.

In these times of ‘ biopic’ cinema, the life of aspiring Dalit woman who became first actress should also be popularised. Her struggle must be remembered and film on her troubles should be produced in other languages in the country.

*The writer from anywhere and everywhere, supports human rights 

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