On April 2, when India took on Sri Lanka in ICC World Cup finals, Garikipati Narasimha Rao was facing a different kind of challenge in Bhimavaram. He was asked to lecture the students of D.N.R College and the topic was ‘Vyaktitva Vikasam'. “Imagine my predicament as it was the World Cup finals day and naturally cricket was on everybody's minds. Who would be interested to get lectured on personality development and how to improve and hone their skills on such a day?” he asks with a laugh. However, the wordsmith began the session by saying that ‘India will win the world cup' and to support his statement recited a padyam intertwined with Ugadi and the names of Dhoni, Tendulkar and Harbhajan. This was enough to hold the attention of the youngsters and Garikipati continued his lecture with élan.
Garikipati's wit and zestful nature is not new to the viewers of television. The works he lectures on have changed but a padyam dedicated to his mother at the beginning and a line - ‘Inka iravai moodunnara ghantalalo kalludham, anthavaraku Telugu lone matladandi...' at the end of the show have remained constant. “Sometimes when I don't say that line, people call up to enquire why I have not ended the programme like I always do,” says the avadhani sitting in his apartment at Sainikpuri.
The literary giant (check out his website srigarikipati.com) is on a mission. “To make youngsters aware of our Telugu culture, introduce them to literary works and epics and show them how one can imbibe the ideas of epics like Mahabharatha and Ramayana in our daily lives,” he says. The USP of his shows is the way he uses humour and gives modern examples in his lectures. “Youngsters get easily attracted to three things: crime, sex and humour. I have chosen humour. Everyone enjoys hasya rasam,” he says. When he talks about Lord Rama and Jatayu, the bird which valiantly fought Ravana in Ramayana, he uses the example of a scene in Maheshbabu-starrer Athadu to explain how friends stand for each other. He watches movies and reads newspapers to be aware of the happenings to incorporate them in his sessions.
Garikipati recalls his days when as a follower of communism and Sri Sri's poetry, he worked in a school in Warangal. “I was a different kind of person,” he says. However, things changed when he enrolled for M.phil. “I realised that I was nurturing wrong ideals till then,” he says.
His avadhanam stint began in the year in '92 and till now he has done more than 250 ashtavadhanams. “His journey on television began in the year 2001 with Doordarshan. If with ETV2's ‘Telugu Velugu' he wowed audiences with his 10-minute Telugu literature lo ‘chamakkulu', his discourses on Amuktyamalyada, Kalahasti Mahatyam, Panduranga Mahatyam (by Tenali Ramakrishna) on Bhakti TV were a major hit. Currently, he lectures on ‘Mahabharatam Adhunika jeevanam' on the same channel and presents ‘Telugu Saurabham' every Sunday on HMTV. “There might be some traditionalists who are not happy with my sessions but it does not disturb me. I want to reach out to youngsters and if I have to talk the way they like, I am game for it,” he says.
Garikipati's love for Telugu is unmatchable. “Our forefathers compared time to a wheel. The Telugu wheel is moving and it will come back to the top position. Telugu Vaibhavam will be back,” he asserts with a smile.