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Malayalam, Urdu writers claim Jnanpith awards

Staff Reporter

O.N.V. Kurup chosen for the award for 2007; ‘intellectual poet' Akhlaq Khan Shahryar for 2008

O.N.V. Kurup.

NEW DELHI: Malayalam litterateur O.N.V. Kurup and Urdu poet Akhlaq Khan Shahryar were on Friday chosen for the Jnanpith Award for 2007 and 2008 respectively. The selection board chaired by Oriya writer and Jnanpith winner Sitakant Mahapatra made the choices for the top literary awards.

Kurup, popularly known as “ONV”, is a leading voice among contemporary Malayalam poets. As a statement issued by Bharatiya Jnanpith, the trust that presents the award, noted, he began his career as a “progressive writer and matured into a humanist though he never gave up his commitment to socialist ideology.” ONV has 20 collections of poetry and six works of prose to his credit.

Born in 1936 in a Muslim Rajput family in Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly district, Shahryar shaped himself as an “intellectual poet”, whose poetry strongly expresses an “ideological non-commitment.”

His roots, according to the statement, lie in a desire for self-realisation and his attempt to understand modern problems. “Shahryar is not concerned in his poetry with messages or conclusions. Rather, he expresses the spiritual suffering and psychological anguish of what he regards as the wounded modern man,” it said.

Shahryar, who played a major role in shaping Urdu poetry as it is today, has received many awards including the Uttar Pradesh Urdu Akademi award, the Sahitya Akademi award, the Delhi Urdu Akademi award and the Firaq Sammaan.

ONV's concerns

C. Gouridasan Nair adds from Thiruvananthapuram:

Presenting ‘A Poet's Testament' at a ‘Meet the Author' series organised by the Sahitya Akademi in New Delhi some years ago, ONV had said: “No writer can claim that his works will change the world as he desires. The crown of a saviour is too heavy for him. But he cannot escape from his own concerns for mankind and Mother Earth. For me a poem can be an ardent wish or prayer for peace for all or a motif of love that binds hearts together, or a signal for an imminent storm or a soothing balm over a bleeding wound or even a clarion call for social change… Poetry, irrespective of its language, in its spirit, transcends all geographical barriers to express its concern for the entire world of phenomena.”

Here, he was articulating the perennial concerns of his poetry, from the day his first poem ‘Munnottu' (Forward!) appeared in a local weekly way back in 1946 to those that he pens to this day.

ONV is one of the few to emerge from the turbulent times of the freedom struggle and revolutionary fervour of the 1940s and keep pace with the changing times, constantly rediscovering his poetic voice with changing sensibilities. This he did without compromising his fundamental allegiance to the progressive romantic worldview and always attempting a fruitful fusion of tradition and modernity in his choice of subjects and his poetic utterance.

Born in 1931 at Chavara, a coastal village in south Kerala, ONV burst on to the Malayalam literary scene during what is often called the Pink Decade, of 1946-'56. His poems of this period are marked by revolutionary fervour. But by the 1960s, his poetry began to resonate with tragedy and disillusionment, but he still remained the spokesperson for the toiling millions. Soon, he moved on to much larger concerns about the very survival of the human species in the face of marauding human greed and the clamour for freedom everywhere. His later poetry retained all these elements, but with the sweep of vision and stoic rhythm that comes with long experiences with different facets of life. Regardless of the phases through which it has travelled, ONV's has been poetry of hope and humanity, even if it is about the shade that a green shoot would offer in some far corner of the earth some day in the distant future.

ONV is a prolific writer and one of the finest lyricists in Malayalam. His major works include ‘Daahikkunna Paanapaathram' (The Thirsty Chalice:1956), ‘Mayilpeeli (Peacock Feather:1964), ‘Agnishalabhangal' (Fire Moths:1971), ‘Aksharam' (Alphabet:1974), ‘Karutha Pakshiyude Paattu' (Song of a Black Bird:1977), ‘Uppu' (Salt:1980), ‘Bhoomikk Oru Charama Geetham' (A Dirge for the Earth:1984) and ‘Ujjayini' (Ujjain:1994). He was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1998, the Kerala Sahithya Akademi Award for ‘Agnishalabhangal' in 1971, the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for ‘Aksharam' in 1975 and the Vayalar Rama Varma Award for ‘Uppu' in 1982. As lyricist, he had won the National Award for Best Lyricist in 1989 and the State Award for the Best Lyricist over a dozen times.

Kerala's Culture Minister M.A. Baby described the Jnanpith Award for ONV as a recognition for Malayalam and Kerala. Fellow Jnanpith- winner and Malayalam novelist M.T. Vasudevan Nair described it a long-awaited recognition for ONV's poetic genius.

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