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Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)

THE LOST HEROINE (Nashtanaika)

This poignant translation by C.S. Venkiteswaran and Arathy Ashok brings alive the world of early Malayalam cinema and the people who pioneered it, weaving within it a universal story of ambition, desire and the faultlines of caste and religious bigotry.

Full Title: The Lost Heroine

Author: Vinu Abraham
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing
Translator: C.S. Venkiteswaran and Arathy Ashok
Original Language: Malayalam

Award Category: Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
About the Book: 

Growing up in a district in Kerala, spinning idle dreams as she worked in the fields, Rosy had never been to the cinema. Her only brush with fame had been to act in the local Kakkarissi plays. So when Johnson Sir, her well-to-do neighbour, asked if she would like to play the role of heroine in a movie his friend Daniel was making, Rosy could scarcely believe it.
In a matter of weeks, Rosy, a poor Dalit Christian girl of the Pulaya caste, was transformed into Sarojini – the beautiful Nair girl who lived in a grand tharavad, wore mundus and blouses of the finest silk and gold jewellery from head to toe. Sarojini, with whom the handsome Jayachandran falls in love at first sight as she sits at her window playing the veena.
Rosy’s dream world comes to an end when the last scene is shot. A harsh reality awaits her when the film is screened at the Capitol Theatre in Trivandrum. There is shock and horror in the audience as the film rolls.
All hell breaks loose, and Rosy narrowly escapes death only to spend the rest of her life in anonymity. It is only in a forgotten roll of film that their story lives on. The story of Vighathakumaran (The Lost Child), the first film ever to be made in Malayalam, in the year 1928.
This poignant translation by C.S. Venkiteswaran and Arathy Ashok brings alive the world of early Malayalam cinema and the people who pioneered it, weaving within it a universal story of ambition, desire and the faultlines of caste and religious bigotry.

About the Author: 

Vinu Abraham is a well-known writer of short stories, novels, film scripts and essays in Malayalam. He has published twenty-three books, including eleven short story collections and four novels. A winner of several prestigious Malayalam literary awards, he has also won the Best Scriptwriter Award for the film Parudeesa in the Mexico International Film Festival. A native of Nedungadappally in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, he lives in Thiruvananthapuram.

About the Translators
C.S. Venkiteswaran is a reputed film critic and essayist writing in both Malayalam and English.
Arathy Ashok is a professor of English who engages in translations and other writings


ROSY, ARE YOU feeling sleepy?’
Startled, Rosy opened her eyes. Standing in front of her was Daniel. She hurriedly began to get up from the grass mat.
‘No need to get up now. We’ll call you when it is time for you to act,’ he said, and walked away.
How could I tell Daniel Sir that I had not been sleeping but praying? I was praying to God that whatever I do should come out good, and that this cinema business should go well. It is a habit from my childhood—whenever I am doing something important, I start only after prayers.
Today is the day I am going to become a film actress—a heroine in a film! The first film heroine in this land of Malayalam! Only a few minutes left for that…soon, the camera will capture my face and body into film.
A fortnight back, when Johnson came home and told her about this, she couldn’t believe it at all.
It was afternoon. Her Amma and Appan had gone out for work. Since she had no work that day, she had stayed at home. Having had her tapioca and fish curry, she was sitting under the papaya tree in the front yard, washing the pots. Then she heard someone clearing his throat. When she raised her head to look, she saw Johnson standing outside the hut. Hey! How come Johnson Sir is here?
It was quite unusual. He was from a well-to-do family and lived in a house by the road. He was a handsome young man. Soon after they moved from Amathara and settled here, Rosy had stumbled into him on the road, and he had introduced himself.
He was walking towards her from the other side. When he saw her, he suddenly stopped and asked with a wide smile on his face, ‘Koche, your name is Rosy, isn’t it?’
She was totally flustered, but said, ‘Yes.’
‘You are a good artist, isn’t it?’
She was at a loss for a moment. She gazed at him curiously.

‘I have seen you acting in Kakkarissi plays. It was good. You performed really well in that role which has only been played by men until now.’
She didn’t know how to respond. Upon receiving such a compliment, that too from a handsome young man, she could not stop herself from breaking into a smile that lit up her face.
‘Okay, see you later.’ With that, Johnson walked past.
Later she came to know that Johnson too acted in plays and had a reputation as a good actor. After that, whenever they met on the road, he used to give her a charming smile. She would also smile back shyly.
‘Come on. I have come to your house, and you are not inviting me in?’ When Johnson Sir said this, Rosy grew nervous. He was right. Confused at his sudden appearance, she had forgotten basic etiquette and was standing blankly staring at him. But in a hut like theirs where could she invite him to sit? There was only a low stool with one wobbling leg.
‘Hey, don’t worry about me. I will stand here. Are your Amma or Appan here?’
‘No. They have gone out for work.’
‘Okay. I will tell you why I came. I came here to invite you to an acting programme. When I say acting, it is not Kakkarissi or a play. It is film acting. Cinema.’

Rosy’s eyes widened. Cinema? She had only heard about it; she had not seen any cinema so far. She didn’t even know what it was.

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