Vairamuthu, the Tamil poet, lyricist, and an accused in the #MeToo movement, has been conferred the ONV literary award. Kerala’s ONV Cultural Academy made the announcement on Wednesday.
The award, which is given out to writers annually by the academy since 2017, is awarded in memory of Malayalam poet and lyricist ONV Kurup who died in 2016. The award comes with a cash prize of Rs 3,00,000, a plaque, and a citation.
Vairamuthu is the first person outside Kerala to receive the honour. Previously, the award was won by Sugathakumari (2017), MT Vasudevan Nair (2018), Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri (2019), M Leelavathy (2020). The winner for 2021 was selected by a jury panel comprising poets Alankode Leelakrishnan and Prabha Varma and Malayalam University vice chancellor Anil Vallathol.
According to the press release issued by the academy, the ONV Yuva Sahithya Puraskaram award will be declared later as it was not feasible to check all the entries due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The date of presentation of the award will also be announced later.
Many social media users questioned the decision to honour Vairamuthu, who has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, with the award. Multiple women, including singer and voice artist Chinmayi Sripaada accused Vairamuthu of sexual harassment during the #MeToo Movement that gained momentum in October 2018, .
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Vairamuthu to be “honoured” with ONV award.
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— Vivek Santhosh (@sonder_being) May 27, 2021
Mr. Vairamuthu gets the fifth ONV literary award instituted by the ONV Cultural Academy.
Late Mr ONV Kurup would be proud.
— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) May 26, 2021
ONV Award to Vairamuthu ! Wonderful. Look at the names to the left. After so many women talked about a predator, he is given high five 🖐🏼 by all. Disgusting gesture!@TheQR3 @ANT_i_NCUMBENT @fahir_me @CPIMKerala pic.twitter.com/XnopnLEaZY
— Ajay Peter (@ajaypetera) May 26, 2021
The poet was recently slammed for his new song En Kadhala that he wrote and produced. The song, that released on May 23 and shows a schoolgirl falling in love with a much older man, was slammed for normalising predatory behaviour.
Referring to the song as “Sexual grooming 101”, Chinmayi wrote on Twitter, “The concept of sexual grooming falls on deaf years in this country and here comes something that glorifies this.” Quoting a couple of lines from the song that talks about the girl wanting a husband like a father, Chinmayi said, “No wonder he had a pattern to the targets he chose.”
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin met Vairamuthu at his residence in Chennai on Thursday and congratulated the poet on winning the award, much to the chagrin of social media users.
Members of the Malayalam film fraternity, including actor-filmmaker Geetu Mohandas and actor Parvathy Thiruvothu, also condemned the award announcement for Vairamuthu, on social media.
— Parvathy Thiruvothu (@parvatweets) May 27, 2021
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Vairamuthu was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2003 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014.