In memory of ONV Kurup: Poet extraordinaire

ONV Kurup
ONV Kurup

Today is the birth anniversary of ONV Kurup, the poet who changed the course of poetry in Malayalam literature. For Malayalees, ONV is a name synonymous with poetry. He was born on May 27, 1931, as Ottaplackal Neelakandan Velukurup to ON Krishna Kurup and K Lakshmi Kutty Amma in Chavara (Kollam). He started writing poetry at a very young age and penned his first-ever poem, ‘Munnottu’ at the age of 15.

It was only after he won the first prize in a poetry competition organised by the State Progressive Art and Culture (Purogamana Kala Sahithya Sangham) group that the world of Malayalam literature started noticing him. He was only 17 when he wrote the award-winning poem called ‘Arivalum Rakkuyilum.’

In 1949 he published his first collection of poems, ‘Poruthunna Soundaryam.’ Later he wrote several poems like ‘Dahikkunna paanapathram’, ‘Marubhoomi’, ‘Mayilpeeli’, ‘Agnishalabhangal’, ‘Aksharam’, ‘Karuthapakshiyude Paattu,’ ‘Uppu’, ‘Bhoomikkoru Charamageetham,’ ‘Sharangaka Pakshikal,’ ‘Mrigaya’, ‘Thonnyakasharangal’, ‘Aparaannam’, ‘Ujjaiyini’, ‘Veruthe’, ‘Swayamvaram’ and ‘Bhariavante Thudi.’

After passing out from Chavara English High school, he finished his education at Kollam SN College and Thiruvanthapuram University College. He has worked as a lecturer at University College, Ernakulam Maharajas college, Thiruvanthapuram Arts and Science College, and Kannur Brennen College. He retired as the head of the Malayalam department from the Govt Women’s college in 1986.

Not just Malayalam literature, ONV’s contribution to Malayalam cinema music is immeasurable. He debuted as a lyricist in the film ‘Kalam Marannu’ (1955). That film also saw the collaboration of two legends in Malayalam cinema—ONV and Devarajan Master. He has penned the lyrics for films like ‘Kaliyattam’, ‘Puthri’, ‘Karuna’, ‘Karutha Rathrikal’, ‘Adhyapika’, ‘Kumarasambhavam’, ‘Nishagandhi’, ‘Swapnam’, ‘Madhanolsavam’, ‘Ulkadal,’ ‘Devadasi’ and ‘Chillu.’

He won the National award for Best Lyricist for ‘Vaishali’ and has also won the Kerala State film awards 13 times. In 1971 he was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Academy Award for his work 'Agnishalabhangal'. He won the Kendra Sahitya Academy Award for ‘Akshara’ in 1975 while his ‘Uppu’ won the Soviet Nehru Prize in 1981 and the Vayalar Prize in 1982. In 1998, the country honoured him with the Padma Shri. In 2008, he was nominated for the State Government's Ezhuthachan Award.

He was awarded the Padma Prabha Award in 2005 and the Ramashramam Trust Award in 2009. ONV has received the Jnanapith Award in 2007 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2011. He has also served as an Executive Member of the Kendra Sahitya Academy, Chairman of the Kerala Kalamandalam and Fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Academy.

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