Tamil Nadu’s caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam is breaking the internet right now, providing social media with rich fodder for memes. This is hardly surprising given that the usually soft-spoken All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader made some astounding revelations on Tuesday, splitting the 44-year-old party wide open.

On Tuesday night, Panneerselvam sat in front of the memorial of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Chennai’s Marina beach, and meditated for half an hour. He had been sworn in as chief minister for the third time within hours of her death on December 5. As he sat in silence, social media was rife with speculation about whether his presence signalled a revolt against VK Sasikala, Jayalalithaa close aide, who was recently picked by the party to replace him as chief minister. Panneerselvam had submitted his resignation to the governor on February 5, citing personal reasons. Sasikala is waiting to be sworn in as chief minister.

After his meditation session on Tuesday, Panneerselvam claimed that he had been forced to resign by party members to make way for Sasikala. He went on to say that members of the party had insulted him even after electing him as chief minister last month, and added that he would withdraw his resignation if he had the support of the people.

The internet went crazy.

Since Tuesday night, Facebook pages such as Chennai Memes and Awesome Machi! have been churning out dozens of memes with references to popular scenes from Tamil cinema – ranging from Rajnikanth’s suave persona as a businessman in the 1992 film Annamalai, to Sivaji Ganesan’s character in Saraswati Sabatham. Most of these memes are largely in support of Panneerselvam.

Rajnikanth in Annamalai. (Credit: Memes Times).

Watch Scroll.in’s video on the rib-tickling memes that are flooding the internet.

In the film Saraswati Sabatham, Sivaji Ganesan plays Vidyapathi, a mute person, who is tormented by the public because of his inability to speak.

Social media users have drawn a clever parallel between the character in the film and Panneerselvam.

The caretaker chief minister is not known to be assertive and has always operated in Jayalalithaa’s shadow. During Jayalalithaa’s time, Panneerselvam had taken over as chief minister twice. First in 2001, when Jayalalithaa was barred from holding office by the Supreme Court, and then in 2014, when she was convicted in a disproportionate assets case. On both occasions, he was called a puppet chief minister who was managed by Jayalalithaa and did not make his own decisions. So it came as no surprise when he resigned last week to allow Sasikala to take over.

The meme below comprises stills from Saraswathi Sabatham in which the mute, helpless Vidyapathi (Panneerselvam) cries in front of a statue of goddess Saraswati (Jayalalithaa’s memorial), asking for help. She grants him the boon of speech and knowledge, followed by a famous scene when Vidyapathi is finally able to speak. And Panneerselvam did speak too – about his humiliation of being made to resign, his doubts about the circumstances of Jayalalithaa’s death and his thoughts on Sasikala’s politics.

OPS: Why do they not let me speak and instead make me eat mixture?

Jayalalithaa: Son, Panneer, I will give you the power of speech.

OPS 2.0: Ma...Mma...Amma!

Sivaji Ganesan in 'Saraswati Sabatham'. (Credit: Memes Times).
Sivaji Ganesan in 'Saraswathi Sabatham'. (Credit: Chennai Memes).

Another meme addressing Panneerselvam’s radical transformation relates to the 1994 political satire film Amaidhi Padai. A famous scene in this film depicted Amavasai, the character played by actor Sathyaraj, undergoing a similar metamorphosis.

In the film, Amavasai is a homeless pauper who works as a helper in a political party. He is made to stand for elections by a senior party member. To his surprise, he wins the elections by a huge margin, and by the end of the vote count his body language changes drastically – from a meek man with folded hands to a confident person sitting cross-legged in his chair, holding a cigarette, and addressing his leader by his name. Panneerselam’s revolt is perceived similarly.

OPS: So…Sasi

Sasi: You are calling me by my name?

OPS: Then what? Your name is Sasi, right?

Sathyaraj in Amaidhi Padai. (Credit: Meme Kumar).

Last month, many in Tamil Nadu had been with Panneerselvam’s delayed reaction to the protests against the ban on the bull-taming sport jallikattu. But after Tuesday’s press meet, his popularity has sky-rocketed overnight on social media.

(Credit: Awesome Machi!).
Natarajan: OPS, how are you here? (Credit: Madras Memoirs).
(Credit: Awesome Machi!).