A Rare Interview with Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Watching this interview with the Punjabi poet, the late Shiv Kumar Batalvi, I could not but reflect that poetry, and art in general, is far greater than its creator. Once the poet’s idea finds a language, the language works on its own- the shared repository of mankind’s long history and engagement with ideas and emotions, it cannot but dwarf its lonesome creator.

Batalvi’s talk is almost child like in the interview, and his answer to questions about “getting away from myself” and the death of an intellectual are as naive as they are innocent. Same for his answer to the question of the inspiration of his poetry. Batalvi was not a great Punjabi poet, at the same time, his poetry is marked by a melancholy lyricism that brought a freshness to the language. As in a previous post on Batalvi, I wonder if its melancholy has something to do with the partition and confusion of ideas and identities, rather than a purely personal sadness. Batalvi’s answer seems to confirm that it was more than something purely personal- he seems to have had a happy life as he states in the interview.

Here is the rare footage from the BBC’s television with Batalvi in 1970, when he was 32. He died three years later at the age of 35. The interview is in Hindi/Urdu.


(I must say that the person who has uploaded this rare footage deserves kudos for this rare treat.)

While on Batalvi, here is a rendition by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: mae ni mae mere gitaan vich. I like this better than other renditions because of its monotone and the relative lack of emotion in the voice, thus letting the words speak for themselves.

Related Post: Shiv Kumar Batalvi


Author: bhupinder singh

an occasional blogger

12 thoughts on “A Rare Interview with Shiv Kumar Batalvi”

  1. A comment on the well-written opinion: “Watching this interview with the late Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, I could not but reflect that poetry, and art in general, is far greater than its creator. Once the poet’s idea finds a language, the language works on its own- the shared repository of mankind’s long history and engagement with ideas and emotions, it cannot but dwarf its lonesome creator.”

    Hi, I disagree with your observation that poetry is ‘greater than’ its creator. First, we must look at the comparitive of great, greater than, and ask of you, what is meant. We must carve out of this comparative: types; unless of course you meant to say in all forms, greater. While we delve into the various types of ‘greater than’, I am content to say that if ‘greater than’ is meant to ultimately modify both the creator and the piece of literature, that it is immediately wrong. A few basic, ‘greater than’ types are, to my mind: temporal, divine, biological, and so fourth.

    Also, if we take the singular creator and the collective creator of this work and ask how and which is greater in various types, I am certain when I say that the collective creator is far greater. I think, again in the collective, that the work cast is but subordinate to that of the collective creator. Unless of course we attempt to account for anthropomorphic types of appreciation, awareness, etc.

    In short, I agree if you say that art can often live longer than its artist, but if the artist is the audience as well ( which in a very real way, it is ) then the artwork is ever shorter-lived, and thus still lesser than its creative agent.

  2. Any generalization is bound to be contested and though I do not think I have fully understood your comment (it’s a bit academic for a layman like me), all I will say is that my comment was prompted by Batalvi’s interview. He comes across as rather naive in his ideas but his poetry, on the contrary, is far more mature. His skill lies in piecing together words around some rather naive ideas, but the composition is far richer because of the meanings that language carries in itself as accumulated human knowledge.

  3. Well, not to offend you as I oppose you once more, I actually like debate; but instead of offending you I actually wish to point out what I think, which as a piece of knowledge or language merely complements what you said, rather than ‘opposing it’ as we the users and expressers of such may feel or believe.

    In your first comment, you noted that <> was <>. I will re-explain what I said above in not so complex a way, and excuse me if my language was too difficult. It was not my intention.

    You said that art in general was greater than its creator. If you read back to my past letter, which of course you do not have to do, you will find that I was asking you to think for a moment on how big a statement this was in that ‘greater than’ can mean so, so many things and, is plainly poor in communication insofar as it does not but precisely condescend man when to his art. You said, greater than, but did not specify the nature; you did nto specify ‘how’ this art is great’er. For example, if I were to come to your site and say, “hey man, I am greater than you!” it would not be but absurd arrogance in that you would be obliged to wonder and ask… “how is that?” I might go into trying to respond ” well… I am smarter, I am faster in running, I am more beautiful, I have ten wives” etc. but without saying these ways of being I would not have said anything at all.
    Smarter than
    faster than
    more beautiful
    these are “types of greater”
    but greater on its own does not say anything that allows us to understand what you mean. Art is greater than man…HOW? IN WHAT WAY? ( I do not type in capital letters to offend or give the impression that I am screaming, but to ask that you see plainly my point ).

    Another example, just to clarify. An egg is better than a rock. An egg is greater than a rock. The comparative better than, or greater than is not meaningful in these examples in that we are forced, if we wish to possess as knowledge, ask why. How. Under what conditions.
    What, because it is potentially alive? Because it is white? Because it is on earth? Etc.?

    If we were to say that art is greater than its creator in terms of being art, than this would be different and possibly able to be argued in that you did not make such an ultimate statement as merely comparing both totalities ( humans ) + ( art of humans )

    If we were to say, humans are greater than art, it would be the same problem in that our bystanders would feel it imposing and thereby as if they needed to ask how so as to understand. If we were to say that humans are more valuable, greater than, (etc.) art… in that we create art but art does not create us… it would be much more specific and simple to see how the comparative functions in this sentence. Comparative is used in grammar to modify adjectives so that they compare other adjectives, nouns etc. For example, blue is more royal a color than red in the western civilizations. While this is not necessarily true or even important, the example shows you that royal is the adjective and more is used to compare blue to red. Comarative=comparison.
    So here, you compared art to humans in a highly abstract way, not at all specifying your meaning in comparing. Its like saying, Mars is better than Saturn. yes, but why? How? the comparative of good, is not necessarily totally meaningless, but it does not serve us as well as other communicative tools would.
    Just like when I say, “hey man, I am better than you!” It does not really say anything, but is merely an illusion of communication.

  4. Thanks for clarifying, I guess I understand your point better now. I agree I could have been more explicit when using the term ‘greater’- had I given it more thought.

    I don’t want to sound defensive, but I hope at least to some extent the line and the paragraph following this sentence should help to implicitly elaborate on this contrast. I agree with you, though, that I need to have been more careful. Thanks for pointing out, I trust will remember it next time!

  5. i fully agree with you. art is bigger than its creator. it has an existence independent of its creator.-someone has pointed out that a work of art is like a flower arrangement, which acquires a life of its own once the basic arrangent is completed. the changes made to peferfect it obeys the law of the floral arrangement that has come into existence and not the preconceived ideas of the creator.

  6. “To comment 5”
    ( to page owner, can you please delete the previous comment, I put in text that was deleted because of these marks : and as you can see… all that was in between them was deleted. I went through the text again and placed [] marks around that text. I do not know why, but when I have used these marks here on wordpress.com, everything gets deleted. Hopefully this will not repeat. Thanks, and sorry if you had to read this twice if to understand what the heck was meant by “does not=” and so fourth.)

    You said Art is bigger than its creator.

    In logic, one must agree that

    [to be bigger than] does not = [to be independent of]

    Art is a subordinate of the creator in that it was created by the creator. Art is a subordinate of the creator in that if we take all humans everywhere away, and keep art… art does not in fact exist. You see, art is a meaning… a knowledge classification. It is a piece of OUR knowledge.
    But, if you take art away… humans can most certainly still exist. There were humans before art. There will not be art after!

    Let us take Mona Lisa, for example. This painting is said to be one of the most famous to have ever existed. For centuries, connoiseurs have marvelled at its curious expression, asking how the artist could have attained such sublimity. They observed her eyes and fealt as if the irides were life-like as they ‘watched’.
    Recently, scientists were able to observe the painting in a new way. In a way that explained, that in fact, the smile was warped from time. That it had changed with time.
    That, the artist did not paint it as it is now.
    We must admit that what is created from an artist is not necessarily the same after time but, is different on account of the conditions of time. IN this way, the mona lisa we see today is not the same mona lisa that was created centuries prior. In this way, this is not purely the work of a single artist.
    Despite the fact that art can change via various relative conditions, this does not make ‘the art’ [greater than] ‘the creator’. If you wish for people to understand ‘greater than’ you will need to explain it in literal words. Otherwise, we are forced to presuppose what is meant. We are forced to assume that you are talking about a difference that is total.
    If you classify the comparative structure [greater than] into various degrees or types; you will see that it is itself richly lacking in accurate expression.

    let us say, to point out my sentence above, that a rock is greater than a feather.

    A rock ‘can be’ greater than a feather depending on which conditions we choose to observe most immediately. Let us say that the rock is greater than the feather in terms of strength, time, and weight when to other given conditions.
    Also, though, it would be perfectly acceptable to say that a feather is greater than a rock in a function of flight. A feathehr is greater than a rock in that it is soft.

    In your statement, though, you do not point out what [greater than] means. You do not precisely point to what you mean by saying, “art is greater than its creator.”

    In this way; you are logically damned in that you have not chosen enough words to properly express how such a sentence is so generally true or accepted. It is monistic, or singular if you like, when to an actual crevice deep with multiples.

    Also, you wrote two other sentence that I would like to address.

    The first one is the claim that through the simile ‘ a piece of artwork is like a floral arrangment, once it is “completed” it acquires a life of its own’.

    The point to this that I would like to say is: this is a claim. And, in many ways, it is an illogical metaphor. An artwork is able to be several, diverse and very distinct objects of existence. I fail to see how a bouquet could at all amplify all artworks. Also, the flowers that were rotated or ribboned or in any way affected were, prior to this, already of the living. And, yes of course I agree that after experience, one may learn their own way to bundle these together in a delicate and beautiful fashion–yes, certainly. However, after the work has been bundled; it has not changed its taxonomic placement, but has merely been tampered with. I.E. it is still just a flower. In a similar direction, but with different examples; the flower arrangement has not itself collected . Life here can be anything! A n y t h i n g ! This is then, a bombasitic word. A word, FULL of air. In this, what could not be that which collects life? Is it not a inseperable sentence to say… ‘life’ is that which is both collected and collects? –Yes, I think it is.

    So, to recast your sentence:
    “a work of art is like a flower arrangement, which acquires a life of its own once the basic arrangent is completed”

    What can literally or more accurately replace the noun, in this sentence? Spirit? yes.–but still, unfairly abstract. Function? yes, less abstract but then there is always the question… what does not serve? A lasting quality? More accurate, but less apparent.
    A form? A presence? Sure!

    In the same sentence, we could take [life] out and, replace it with : “a work of art is like a flower arrangement, which acquires [[any possible difference of its own]], once the basic arrangent is completed”

    But, in an unclassified way (or philosophically, if you like)… what in “life” does not do this? What is not constantly changing?
    IN this way, then… art is certainly not any different from the artist or anything else in that it collects or is collected by life; or differently… is that which takes change.

    As you can plainly see… we can say this about the mere stepping into of a river. “One never steps into the same river twice.” This sentence is correct in that it idenities omnipotent change. Constant change. In this sentence, then, every [stage] of a work (if we chose to systematically break it down to points of observation called stages) represent change. represent ‘lives of their own’ Just like before the work was started, and of course just like after it.
    the problem with the sentence is that it fails to address the constant life-gathering trait of all things, time-undone!

    Lastly, your sentence :
    “the changes made to peferfect it obeys the law of the floral arrangement that has come into existence and not the preconceived ideas of the creator.”

    I unfortuately, do not understand this sentence. Obeys and has do not properly modify their subject. This said, I try to see their agent of action, however… am not able to.
    Maybe you can retype it?

    take care!

  7. shiv looks drunk in interview so i think he looks totally different than his poetry but i can say with confidence his poetry is created by a person who is more than a person, i mean only God can creat this type of poetry but no body knows about God, it means shiv is equal to God……………..?

  8. Once you grow out of this phase, you may realize that while Shiv is a great lyricist, he is not as great a poet as some imagine.

  9. i dont know differences between a poet and a lyricist but i can say that the punjabi words which shiv used in his short life and in young age are gems – it not looks a auother,poet or lyricist’s words , it looks words are really written by a ” Faquier ” (poor-saint) after his death, who died in pain………?

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