Malayalam poet and lyricist Prof Ottaplakkal Neelakandan Velu Kurup, 79, popularly known as ONV, was in Dubai on Friday, when he received news that he has been awarded the Jnanpith, India’s highest award for literature. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, he spoke to Sajila Saseendran before he flew back to India.
Q. There is a general opinion in the Malayalam literary circle that the award has been long-overdue.
A. I cannot claim an award and I don’t have the right to say it is long overdue. We shouldn’t aspire for awards when we write or create something. If you write something, that piece of work is like an award because of the satisfaction it gives you. However, in this long journey of 65 years of publishing my works, several awards have come to me and they are like a shadow or paadheyam (a parceled meal offered to a traveller). When I was a young writer, it was an inspiration, an impetus. Now, I consider it as a recognition to Malayalam poetry. What is more important is that we are getting a Jnanpith award for Malayalam poetry after a long time, after G Sankara Kurup.
Q. You have been a very popular lyricist, as well. What gives you more self-satisfaction — poems or songs?
A. Poetry is poetry, while film songs are poetry applied to film. The architect of the film is its director. Here, I’m the architect and I have supreme powers. In poetry, I can change words as I like. But, in films, I write for another person. Whether it is a poem or a song, when it serves its purpose, you get satisfaction. However, I get more satisfaction in writing poems since poetry is much deeper and is a response to life.
Q. Do you think poetry is dying in this age of commercialisation?
A. To a certain extent, yes. It is true that the visual media or the spoken word in it is now dominating and poetry, or the written word, is losing its readers gradually. However, poetry always has a fixed audience. Nothing can replace the aesthetic aspect of the written poetic word. But, there are people who want to develop this notion that poetry is dying down. Languages are nowadays shrinking. Ruining our language for the sake of computer usage is not right.
Q. So, what do you suggest to revive poetry, especially among the young generation?
A. I feel our education system should give more importance to language and poetry. We should encourage children to read and listen to poetry. Schools and colleges should organise poetry recitation sessions and competitions.
Q. What is your message to the youth?
A. Gandhiji said ‘my life is my message.’ But, in my case, I can just say my poetry is my message. A poet has certain concerns for the community and out of that concern comes the right word. My poem is my response to life.
Q. Your early works aired Marxian views. What relevance do you think Marxian ideology has at this age?
A. Marxian ideology has a paradigm regarding the blueprint of a good social system — each for all and all for each. That has a democratic set up. But, when you say all for me, or all for some of us, I cannot agree to it. A poet can write poems only when he can empathise with others. I’ve seen the plight of the have-nots and my empathy for them shapes my poetry.
FONTE: Khaleej Times