For over 12 hours, a Twitter storm has been blowing as netizens have come together to pray for Contractor Neasamani, a character played by comedian Vadivelu in the 2001 Tamil movie Friends. But fast asleep through this hilarious social media exchange in Theni district was the actor himself, who was flabbergasted when told about how this scene from two decades ago has become the subject of India's number one Twitter trend.
Speaking to TNM on Thursday morning, a surprised Vadivelu says, "I have no idea what is happening. I haven't seen anything yet."
When informed of the internet circus around his character Neasamani, Vadivelu breaks into amused laughter, barely able to contain himself.
"What? It has become famous across the world? Oh god. It has gone to America and everywhere? Thank you," he says, addressing his fans now. "Yes, the movie was with Vijay and Suriya. I have acted in a lot of movies and made the whole world laugh. But I didn't know about this," he adds.
"This entire trend is a victory given by God, a victory for the movie's director Siddique and the victory for the people who enjoy my comedy," Vadivelu tells TNM.
The actor further told Tamil channel Puthiya Thalaimurai that characters like Neasmani were a god-given gift to his career.
#Pray_for_Neasamani trended after a Pakistan-based meme page Civil Engineering Learners posed a question, â€śWhat is the name of the tool in your country?â€ť by posting a photo of a hammer.
A Vadivelu fan was quick to connect the hammer with a scene from Friends, in which Contractor Neasamani ends up with an injury because one of his inept assistants (Ramesh Kanna) drops a hammer on his head after failing to follow the simplest of instructions. The humour in the scene is accentuated by the poker-faced expressions of Vijay and Suriya, who play second fiddle to Vadivelu.
After the user connected the hammer to Neasamani, another Tamil Facebook user, mockingly wrote, â€śIs he ok?â€ť Now these two decided to rib the entire Facebook culture of praying for someone with #Pray_for_Neasamani which later snowballed into a major Twitter trend with memes and funny responses.
Following this, even journalists and politicians joined the joke and began to add more satirical tweets to the growing trend. Brands too joined in, making Neasamani ads, the latest being Sony Music which has released a special collection of songs for 'Pray for Neasamani'.
Even Manushyaputhiran, a poet and DMK supporter joined the trend, penning a poem for the contractor, who he says, passed away after being in a coma. Linking the Twitter trend to the ongoing political scenario, Manushiyaputiran pointed out that on a day that the PM was being sworn in, the death of Neasamani was seen as a sign of misfortune. Taking a dig at the BJP, the poet adds that nobody is really bothered because bad things happened even when people were promised that 'Good days will come'.
Several social media users pointed out that the entire phenomenon was actually a tribute to actor Vadivelu's evergreen comedy scenes. He has acted in over 100 films in Tamil cinema and received several awards for his comic timing and ability to make members of all age groups laugh. From 2012 however, he slowly began to reduce the number of film he acted in and was last seen in the Tamil movie Mersal in 2017.
But today, as #Pray_for_Neasamani evokes mirth across the world, Vadivelu wants to join the laughter.
"Send me the memes on Whatsapp," he says, before signing off.