-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
Celebrated Malayalam poet-lyricist ONV Kurup, who was a part of Kerala’s cultural life for decades, passed away on February 13 due to age-related illness. The nation’s highest literary honor Jnanpith winner breathed his last at KIMS Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. He was 84.
The illustrious writer penned close to 900 songs for Malayalam films and published 21 collections of poetry. Known as ONV, the writer was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998 and Padma Vibhushan in 2011. He was the chairman of the Kerala Kalamandalam twice, for the periods 1996-2001 and 2006-07. In 2007, he received India’s highest honour for literature, the Jnanpith award in 2007.
Ottaplakkal Nambiyadikkal Velu Kurup was born to O N Krishna Kurup and K Lakshmikkutty Amma on May 27, 1931 at Chavara in Kollam district, Kerala.
One of the greatest poets of our time, ONV made significant contribution to Malayalam film music, too. He had been active in literary world for the past six decades.
ONV began penning poems when he was a student, and the first one was published in 1946. Some of his major literary works are: Bhoomikkoru Charamageetham, Uppu, Mayilppeeli, Mrigaya, Ujjayini, Bhairavante Thudi, Thonnyaksharangal, and Karutha Pakshiyude Paattu.
A professor of repute in Malayalam who served in many colleges in Kerala state, O.N.V. — as he was popularly known — was a best known humanist and the face of the Malayalam cultural world through his works which fetched him Kerala’s as well as India’s several literary honours, Kurup was honored with the Jnanpith Award, in 2007 for his unique contribution to literature. ONV started his teaching career in 1957 at Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam. He was the head of department of Malayalam in University College, Thiruvananthapuram; Govt Women’s College, Thiruvananthapuram; and Brennen College, Thalassery.
After retiring from service on May 31, 1986, he was visiting professor at Calicut University for a year. He was a member of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi from 1982 to 1987.
A recipient of the national honors Padma Shri (1998).and the Padma Vibhushan (2011) , besides numerous other literary awards, O.N.V. also has national film awards and 13 state film awards to his credit for his lyrics. He had won the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award, Ezhuthachan Award, Vallathol Award, Kerala Sahithya Akademi Award, Soviet Land Nehru Award, the first Ulloor Award, Ashan Prize. He won the Kerala state film award for best lyricist 13 times, and the National Award, once (Vaishali).
Widely admired in literary circles in the country and abroad, his love for poetry began during his school days. The period saw his poem “Munnottu” (Forward) about his patriotic feelings, being first published in 1946. He did not look back and rose step by step to become one of the most respected cultural personalities in the state.
Known for his Leftist leanings, O.N.V. was fielded as a candidate of the Left Democratic Front in 1989 in the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha elections, but lost to Congress candidate A. Charles. After that he refused to contest elections and became very passive in politics, began fully focusing on literature.
Singer of rural beauty and pure love in poetic language, O.N.V. was always the first person to be reached by the authorities when it came to naming places.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said O.N.V. was a poet who loved both human beings and the environment and through his works took the Malayalam language to greater heights. Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan said he has lost a “brother” and a person who always stood for humanity.
As a lyricist, ONV won the National Award for Best Lyricist in 1989 and had won the Kerala State Film award 13 times. Kurup may have narrowly missed Bharatratna when it was bestowed upon a cricketer last year in a hurry by the Congress government who claims to be an Indian god in his own right especially in Kerala which claims to be god’s own country. (So much as Kerala cricket people have made him (god) leave his own home town Mumbai and settle down now in Kochi, Kerala).
The Kerala state government has decided to accord him a state funeral as and when the family decides the date. Even the place where his last rites will be held — ‘Santhikavadam’ (Peace zone), the state-run crematorium in the capital — was also named by him.
One of Kerala’s best contemporary poets, ONV is survived by his wife Sarojini, son Rajeevan and daughter Mayadevi.