How Tamil meme nation kept Chennai’s spirits high during Cyclone Nivar

It kept meme makers and comedians busy, as they conjured up witty content

November 26, 2020 03:12 pm | Updated November 27, 2020 04:26 pm IST

Cyclone Nivar also kept meme makers busy

Cyclone Nivar also kept meme makers busy

Is there any connection between Cyclone Nivar and Chennai Super Kings batsman Kedar Jadhav?

Yes there is: if you are a meme creator. Even as rain lashed Chennai, Tamil meme nation (as the city’s meme makers are referred to) stayed busy, conjuring up witty visual interpretations of the situation. One of the most popular memes doing the rounds on social media and WhatsApp revolved around a still featuring comedian Vivekh’s popular track in Tamil film Run . It said, in Tamil: "The cyclone would have remained calm if it was named 'Kedar Jadhav', hinting at the batsman’s dismal show in the recent IPL.

Of course there were detractors, but the man featured in the photo — comedian Vivekh — shared it on Twitter, stating it was the work of some “idea ulla pasanga” (guys with a lot of creativity), which was in turn re-tweeted by more than 1,000 users. Elsewhere, stills of Hollywood flick Interstellar were circulated with a caption: “Cooper has arrived in Velachery.”

Combining news photos with popular film material and creating a funny meme has become serious business; Gautham Govindaraman, who runs the popular Chennai Memes page, knows that too well. His 10-member team was active through the cyclone, posting several memes across their social media channels, which enjoy a following of over 2.5 million. “We saw a spike of 3,000 new followers on Instagram on a single day, when the interest on Cyclone Nivar was high. Everyone wanted updates, but they wanted a dash of humour as well,” says Gautham.

So they kept busy; a still from Vada Chennai of actor Ameer at sea was used to denote travelling on Chennai roads. Word play was on display; Velachery was called as ‘Vella Chery’ in one of their posts. “In such situations, we try to up the humour, because people should not panic too much,” states Gautham, whose page was extremely active during the Jallikattu protests in 2017 as well. He adds, “At the same time, we carry many responsible posts as well. We give updates on trees fallen and the course of the cyclone. A meme is easily shareable across mediums, and so we cross-check facts as much as possible before publishing.” They also posted a short thank-you meme to Australian cricketer David Warner, who shared his concerns about the safety of Chennaiites during the cyclone.

Cyclone Nivar also kept stand-up comedians occupied, as they vied with each other to conjure up new, relevant content. Bengaluru-based popular Danish Sait did a quick one-minute video, in which he featured a satirical take on people Instagramming tea as a competitive sport, with rain in the background, that got more than 3 lakh views on Instagram and 2,000 likes on Twitter.

Chennai-based Abishek Kumar’s viral character Mrs Janaki discussed Cyclone Nivar in a clip that quickly gained more than a lakh views on Instagram and over 250 comments. The clip featured a storm video that was widely circulated on social media before the cyclone hit, but whose origin was unknown. “I received that video from 16 meme pages,” laughs Abishek, “I immediately knew that it was worthy of a fun clip involving my Mrs Janaki character. I also knew the name ‘Nivar’ only through meme pages and not news channels. Memes have become a medium for education and entertainment these days.”

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