Tamil poet and lyricist Vairamuthu was conferred with the fifth ONV literary award instituted by the ONV Cultural Academy in Kerala on Wednesday. However, many voices from the Malayalam film industry, who are members of the Women in Cinema Collective have questioned the jury’s decision to confer the award on the poet who has faced a slew of allegations of sexual harassment from many women, including singer Chinmayi.
Actor Parvathy took to social media to criticize the jury and called the choice of recipient a huge disrespect to late poet ONV Kurup. "ONV Sir is our pride. His contribution as a poet and lyricist is incomparable. How it has nourished our culture. Our hearts and minds have benefited through his body of work. This is exactly why it is immense disrespect to give such an honour in his name to the accused of sexual assault crimes (sic),” Parvathy wrote.
Director Anjali Menon stated that late poet ONV means much to Malayalees and it was distressing that the ONV Academy has chosen an alleged perpetrator for the honour. “ONV Sir's name resounds with deep sensitivity, dignity and respect for any Malayalee. Therefore very disturbed to know that ONV Academy has chosen an alleged perpetrator (called out by 17 women) for the #ONVAward. Are these the values they celebrate?,” Anjali Menon tweeted.
Filmmaker Geetu Mohandas wrote, “An award in the name of one of our greatest literary figure shouldn’t go to a man accused by 17 women of sexual harassment . In solidarity with you Chinmayi”
Actor Rima Kallingal said, “Vairamuthu has been called out for sexual harassment by 17 women.”
Parvathy highlighted that those in power need to be held accountable and an award is not more important than humanity. "17 women have come out with their stories. We don’t know how many more have been wronged. There seems to be enough whataboutery to continue wronging those who are wronged. Only to uphold the reputation of those in power. Nothing is more important than humanity. If you come at me with the art vs artist debate, let me tell you that for me the humanity of the person creating the art is the only thing I’d choose to look at. I can live without the “art” of those who hollow out lives with absolute impunity. How do you justify this? Adoor Gopalakrishnan and the jury who decided to award Vairamuthu this honour (sic)."
The award named after legendary poet ONV Kurup, is given to poets and lyricists across the country in recognition of their work. One awardee is chosen each year and for the first time the prestigious award was given to a non-Keralite. The award this time was decided by a jury consisting of poet Prabha Varma, Malayalam UniversityVice-Chancellor Anil Vallathol and writer Alankode Leelakrishnan. The academy is headed by filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan. The patrons include Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, MT Vasudevan Nair and KJ Yesudas, and many other distinguished personalities like MA Baby, Prabha Varma, RS Babu, MK Muneer and Benoy Viswam are part of the Academy.
Meanwhile, Adoor Gopalakrishnan told The Cue website that the award will most probably not be recalled. “The ONV Literary Award is not an award given after examining a person's character. The award is given for excellence in writing. In that case, a special award should be given for character. Vairamuthu was considered by the jury for his excellent writing. I do not know if the jury knows he is a person facing such charges. My personal opinion is that awards should not be decided on the basis of character. As chairman of the Cultural Society, I do not interfere in the decisions of the jury,” he said.
Singer Chinmayi Sripaada, also expressed her anguish. “Mr. Vairamuthu gets the fifth ONV literary award instituted by the ONV Cultural Academy. Wow. Late Mr ONV Kurup would be proud,” Chinmayi wrote.
ONV Sir's name resounds with deep sensitivity, dignity and respect for any Malayalee. Therefore very disturbed to know that ONV Academy has chosen an alleged perpetrator (called out by 17 women) for the #ONVAward. Are these the values they celebrate? https://t.co/Y87dOIcGfj— Anjali Menon (@AnjaliMenonFilm) May 27, 2021
Mr. Vairamuthu gets the fifth ONV literary award instituted by the ONV Cultural Academy.— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) May 26, 2021
Late Mr ONV Kurup would be proud.