Visakha Hari's discourse banked heavily on singing.
Visakha Hari's elucidation was more of enchanting ‘sangeetham' than prosaic ‘upanysam.' The title ‘Vibishana Saranagathi' was just an excuse for Visakha Hari to share her mellifluous musical prowess with a story thread garnished with a little philosophy, admiration for our epics and their substance, reference to the magnificent musical legacy of Tyagaraja and the appropriate compositions intelligently woven in. Charulatha Ramanujam (violin), H.S. Sudheendra (mridangam) and Sridhar Udupa (ghatam) were the accompanists. Visakha started her elucidation with a reference to Nava vida bhakti.
Tyagaraja was the reference point with Visakha launching into compositions at every possible occasion. Visakha reiterated that abject surrender could best be understood by the raga image of Devagandhari in which Tyagaraja has composed two popular numbers - ‘Ksheerasagara Sayana' where the pleas of Draupadi and Gajendra were referred to and ‘Na Moraala Kimpave,' which refers to Sugreevan and Vibishana indirectly.
A Sanskrit sloka drove home the point and another musical spell began including an alapana that inspired the violinist to respond. ‘Manasu nilba' (Abogi) underlined the importance of controlling the mind and ‘Sarasasama Sana' (Kapinarayani) and ‘Raghuveera Ranadheera' (Huseni) explained how the words of advice to avoid war with Rama by his own brothers Kumbakarna and Vibishana fail.
It was poetic error, if repeated without meaning, Visakha said of ‘Kaamita Kaamita Pala' in the Nattai Pancharatna kriti, ‘Jagadanandaga.' It is actually ‘Anthakara-ka-amita-kamita Pala' which sounds the same because of the ending of the preceding syllable, she explained.
She mentioned that many kritis of Tyagaraja suit the mood and message of the content, for instance, the expression of despair about the obstinacy of Ravana - ‘Paluku Ravanudu Teliyalekapoye' in ‘Sarasasama'.
Freely switching from Tamil to English she elaborated on how anger can cloud intellect and cause delusion. Contemporary references to politics, lifestyle and craze for western technology kept the audience riveted.
Visakha Hari's erudition and free flow of language may put her in the league of a raconteur but more than that it is her musical competence and wit that keep the audience engaged; the fully packed Academy hall was testimony to that.