On Sunday, November 19, the night of the cricket World Cup final, a pub in Chennai’s Turnbulls Road broke the mandated curfew and stayed open past midnight. The police arrived and forced them to shut, but Tamil news channels including Thanthi TV and Polimer bafflingly turned on the women who were at the pub.
The reportage, rife with misogynistic remarks about the women’s clothes, implied that their interactions with the men at the bar were lewd and sexual in nature. Further, the news channel’s footage from the pub repeatedly focused on the women, policing their attire and trying to get close shots of their faces, despite being asked not to.
According to the Saidapet police, under whose jurisdiction the pub falls, the pub had functioned beyond 11.30 on Sunday.
“Upon receiving a complaint at around midnight, we reached the pub. They didn’t open the door for ten minutes. Later the place was cleared and a report was filed in the J1 Saidapet police station,” a police official confirmed.
The police also said that news channels, including Sun TV, Jaya TV and Thanthi TV among others, were already present at the premises when the inspection happened.
The coverage of the incident, which has led to widespread outrage online, brings up the question of why the women at the bar were targeted by the media for the actions of the management. Many also pointed out that the presence of women at the bar was reported as if it were a crime.
On Monday, November 20, the morning after the incident, Thanthi TV, in a now-edited post on X (formerly Twitter), said that the “all-night alcohol party was busted by the police,'' problematically adding how “half-dressed women ran out during the incident”. The channel later edited the post, but it was no less misogynistic and continued to pin the blame on the women who were present at the pub.
“Please…Thayavu seidhu ponga, iravil ladies seidha seyal, sathamillamal vandha police, iravil nadantha paraparappu,” the post said, which translates to “Please leave. Here’s what the ladies did at night, and how the police arrived at the scene quietly.”
In the video report that accompanied these captions, Thanthi TV’s camera repeatedly focused on the women’s faces and bodies, despite their expressing discomfort. Even those women who were leaving were relentlessly followed for deliberate close-up shots of their faces. Many women tried to use scarves, masks and dupattas to hide their faces, but the channel’s camera persisted in trying to expose their identities. One woman was seen telling the cameraperson that she would lodge a police complaint against the channel’s breach of privacy, to which he replied with a rude challenge asking her to do it.
The horrific moral policing of the women did not end there. Thanthi’s YouTube video thumbnail and caption read “Chennai Pub-il Manmatha Koothu, Raid-il sikkiya Kilukilu Paravaigal - Moonjai Moodi kondu therithu ootta- Kathariya Thidir couples.” The caption, even translating which is quite conflicting, implies that the interactions between the men and women at the pub were entirely sexual.
Terms like “manmatha koothu” and “kilukilu paravaigal” are extremely sexist usages that objectify those who were socialising at the pub, and especially aim to morally blacklist the women present there. The rest of the caption is similarly belittling, mocking how the women and men left the bar in a hurry, with no context of their privacy and dignity being hounded.
Social media posts slammed Thanthi TV for its coverage.
While the outrage has been predominantly against Thanthi TV, another Tamil news channel named Polimer also ran similar content. Their YouTube video carried the caption “Chennayil bar-il soundudan ladies looties, ravundu kettiya police, nikamma odu, nikamma odu”. The caption translates to, “The women in a Chennai bar who partied loudly ran away as cops surrounded them.”
Again this raises the question of why women socialising at a bar were heckled and chased like law breachers, and why the incident was reported with a view to passing a commentary on their conduct.
This report was from The News Minute as part of The News Minute-Newslaundry alliance. It has been lightly edited for style and clarity. Read about our partnership and become a TNM Member .