Google is celebrating P.K. Rosy’s 120th Birthday
Today’s Google Doodle honors P.K. Rosy, who became the first female lead in Malayalam cinema. On this day in 1903, Rosy was born Rajamma in Thiruvananthapuram, formerly Trivandrum (Kerala’s capital city).
Rosy’s passion for acting began at a young age. In an era when performing arts was discouraged in many sections of society, especially for women, Rosy broke barriers with her role in the Malayalam film Vigathakumaran (The Lost Child).
P. K. Rosy 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 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.
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
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.