Say “TV journalist” out aloud and the names which come to mind are popular TV personalities in the English and Hindi news arena. But it's not just there, in Tamil Nadu too, there has been a television news revolution in the last few years. If Sun TV got the best technological turn-around for Tamil TV, it was Puthiya Thalaimurai which changed Tamil TV news content forever when it launched in 2011. And that set off a completely new breed of news anchors who aren’t newsreaders but hardcore journalists. They raise questions, spark off debates and do not take evasive answers lying down. They move beyond cities and bring stories from deep inside Tamil Nadu. Some are veterans, others are daily giants, while some are emerging names. Handpicked (in alphabetical order) from different news channels across the industry, we bring you some of the most popular men and women TV anchors who have struck a chord with audiences in their own way. Divya Nathan, Puthiya Thalaimurai – “Prime Time News” Divya Nathan of Puthiya Thalaimurai anchors several news bulletins, including prime-time news, morning news as well as debates held on public interest issues. Born and brought up in Sirzahi, Nagapattinam district, Dhivya did her UG and PG in visual communication. After working with Ananda Vikatan, she went on to become part of a six-member strong core team that handled Neeya Naana, a popular debate show on Vijay TV. “We used to talk to 100 people, and then pick ten from that lot for the show. I got to learn a lot about how people thought,” she said. In 2011, she joined Puthiya Thalamurai even before it went on air. Working on script and output work, she was asked in 2013 to give anchoring a shot. “It’s not easy for a female journalist working in the Tamil news industry to gain acceptance,” she says. Gunasekaran M, Puthiya Thalamurai – “Nerpada Pesu” One of the most credible and popular TV personalities in Tamil Nadu today, Gunasekaran’s TV career took off along with the launch of Puthiya Thalaimurai. His show ‘Nerpada Pesu’, meaning straight-talk, is a pioneer in Tamil TV debate shows, taking up current political, socio-economic issues. But even before his TV stint, he was an established print journalist. The first person from his family to graduate from school and college, he hails from a small hamlet called Bandahalli near Dharmapuri. Back then, he used to travel 20 km to get to school for his higher secondary education. His first job was at Dinamani in 1996. His first editor and mentor Rm. T Sambandham encouraged him and gave him a permanent job after a six-month part-time stint. By 1999, he was heading a small bureau in Coimbatore. In 2001, he came to Chennai to cover the assembly elections. His political journalism career soared new heights with his column “Arasiyal Arangam”. In 2004, he joined The Hindu, his first job at an English media house. Then, after a brief stint with the Times of India and Deccan Chronicle, he jumped to TV and joined Puthiya Thalaimurai. For him, every show is an examination. “It was my first TV editor Srinivasan who told me that in some stories, we have to take a stand. When a Dalit boy is urinated on, we cannot be ‘unbiased’. We have to be on his side. The channel's chairman RP Sathyanarayana gave complete freedom to anchors and never insisted that we toe a particular line even during sensitive situations,” he says. It was on his show 'Agni Pravesham' that A Raja gave his complete account about 2G after securing bail, an interview that made national headlines. The show later became 'Agni Paritchai' in which many top names have been interviewed. “Unlike a writer, a host of a debate show has to don the role of a facilitator, a quick interpreter and strong interviewer who can grill people unsparingly. At the same time, we have to sympathetic to genuine causes and oppressed individuals or victims,” he says. Hariharan, Thanthi TV - "Ayutha Ezhuthu" Usually, for a journalist learning the ropes, it takes a while to make it big. But Hariharan, in a matter of three years, has interviewed some of the biggest names in current affairs. Born in 1988, Hariharan, spent all his childhood in Chennai. After doing a UG course in Visual Communication, he went on to major in Journalism and Communication. “When I was finishing my college, I got my basic training in anchoring,” he said. His first job as an anchor was Makkal TV, where the team would conduct live shows of a completely different genre. It was three years ago that Hariharan made the shift to Thanthi TV and began hosting a 90-minute show called Ayutha Ezhuthu with his editor Rangaraj Pandey, one of the most popular Tamil news shows. “Agendas are set here. Politicians get to explain their side of the story in detail. When it comes to regional issues, the state is able to handle issues with much more expertise than the national channels,” he says. Hariharan interviewed Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2015. The interview even became controversial after the PM stated that Indian fishermen would be shot if they attempted to cross the international Lankan boundaries. Hariharan who has also covered the United Nations Human Rights Convention from Geneva also interviewed then Sri Lankan President Mahinde Rajapakse in 2014. He also hosts another show called “Elangar Ani” where youngsters are brought in to debate on different issues. Hariharan attributes his steady career growth to his channel, Thanthi TV, and calls his co-host and editor Rangaraj Pandey his role model. Karthigaichelvan, Thanthi TV – “Achu Alasal” As Chennai lazily wakes up to aromatic filter coffee on weekend, Karthigaichelvan - one of Tamil Nadu’s most well-known and seasoned journalists - takes one through the week’s important news affairs. Titled “Achu Alasal” (meaning ‘analyzing print’), his show discusses and analyses print and social media topics that have dominated the news cycle that week. It is one of the few shows in Tamil that discusses social media trends. Karthik is among the few journalists who has managed a healthy balance between print and TV journalism. Karthik, the name he uses in his day-job is known in the media circles as an all rounder. He broke several major stories and delivered consistently on political journalism through his stints at Tamil political magazines and English newspapers. Born at a village in Chidambaram town, Cuddolore district, Karthik’s romance with journalism started, he says, with children’s magazine ‘Gokulam’ when he was in his third grade. What started as an interest gave him his career. “Achu Alasal” is not his first run-in with TV. His first TV appearance was in the 2002 when DD Podhigai sought him out for a ten-minute political-analysis show. He has to his credit around 300 programmes for the same. He has been conducting his present show for 8 months now. “Earlier I used to read some English and Tamil dailies to keep myself updated. Now, I need to read every single paper including party papers that I get hold of,” he says. He also appears as analyst on many other channels. Ask him what has changed over the years and he says politicians have understood the importance of TV media, “Once private channels sprung up especially in the last three or four years they have created a space. Even politicians are a bit open to accept criticism from them now.” He adds that earlier there were few channels hosting discussions. “Now there is a space to discuss everything,” he says. Mathivanan, Jaya TV - Chief News Editor Probably the most senior TV journalists and anchor in Tamil Nadu, Mathivanan now heads Jaya TV as its Chief News Editor. He began his journalistic career in the year 1998 with Raj TV, and has worked with Sun TV, Puthiya Thalaimurai, Thanthi TV and now, at Jaya TV. His longest stint was at Sun TV, where he worked for 11 years. It was in 2004 that he began active reporting. What catapulted him to fame was his impactful crime series called ”Nijam”(Truth) which he conducted between 2007-2011 based on real-life crime thrillers. A crime show for which he shot at least 350 episodes, it remained the highest rated Tamil programme in the industry for many years. When Puthiya Thalaimurai launched, Mathivanan became one of the main anchors on the channel. The channel's most successful news debate Nerpada Pesu was first hosted by Mathivanan. He was one of the very first journalists who did continuous live shows during crisis – a model which has become very popular in the Tamil news industry today. He has managed to turn around bulletins on Jaya News also to a large extent, with the channel now hosting even debates. He has been heading Jaya News for the past two years. Born in a small village between Vanniyambadi and Krishnagiri, Mathivanan is a Physics graduate from Islamiah College in Vanniyambadi. Nelson Xavier, Sun TV - "Vivada Medai" Being from the pre-2011 era of Tamil news, Nelson Xavier is a well-recognized anchor thanks to his daily news bulletin in Sun TV every night. Discussions and debates, in principle, have been around since 2000, he says. Born in Trichy, Xavier studied BSC Math at St. Josephs college and then MSC Maths in Loyola college, and then worked at Vijay TV for two years. He moved to Polimer TV later, reporting on education and legal stories. He then joined Sun TV in 2011 as a legal correspondent and began anchoring news in 2013. Having at least 1000 programmes to his credit, he produces and anchors a show “Vivada Medai”, a political discussion where he is both producer and anchor. He says his field experience given him an extra edge to conduct the shows. “When there are more channels, quality has to be given. The field is developing, competition is increasing,” he says, talking how there was a widening intellectual platform in the state because of the new channels that have sprung up. Panimalar Panneerselvam, News7 - "Phoenix Pengal" Who better than a woman to shed light on the achievements on other women? Panimalar Panneerselvam who works as a part of News7 is the brain behind a show called "Phoenix Pengal" - a weekly documentary where women who come from economically weaker sections have made it big or those who have contributed in a big way to society. Produced and anchored by Panimalar, the show revolves around women who have struggled to prove themselves. Born and brought up in Coimbatore, Panimalar first began working in Sun TV as a newsreader in 2009 and joined Puthiya Thalaimurai in 2011. Working at News 7 for the last eight months, Panimalar also conducts “Diyapputtum Vinyanam” , a weekly Saturday show where technology news is discussed. “We did this story on a 24 year old girl who has educated an entire village on her own, and this old 89 year old woman in Gandhigramam in Dindigul district who plans to build 10,000 houses for the Dalit community. She’s already accomplished building 2,000 houses in this. These stories are very inspiring,” she says. Pramila Krishnan, News7 - "Maiyam" “What’s the use of doing a story talking about problems if we can’t find a solution to it?” asks Pramila Krishnan who hosts a show called “Maiyam”(Ground Zero) on News 7. Pramila who was born in Gobichettipalayam studied in Erode, and then did her MA at PSG college in Coimbatore. After working for six years from 2008 to 2014 with Deccan Chronicle, she moved to News7 in November 2014, around the same time that the channel was launched. At DC she covered child rights, social issues, environment, education etc. She was one among 13 journalists who participated in the 2013 UN climate conference held in Warsaw. Her most notable works include her investigative report in 2010 on the practice of elders being killed by their own children in Virudhanagar district. Not one to just stop with the reporting, she began a campaign so that awareness was spread about the issue. The issue was taken up in Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate. Her show travels across the state, and takes up varied topics like water scarcity, alcohol abuse, mental health and discrimination of girl children. Having conducted a successful e-waste collection drive while at DC, she feels that some form of activism is essential apart from regular reporting. Having spent most of her early life in Erode, she says being a woman has made no difference while working, “It is easier, because they connect and communicate easily like they are talking to their sister.” Rangaraj Pandey, Thanthi TV - "Ayutha Ezhuthu" Born in Srivilliputtur, Rangaraj Pandey is one of the most recognised news personalities in Tamil Nadu. Known for his no-nonsense anchoring, Pandey hosts two very popular shows on Thanthi TV. While “Ayutha Ezhuthu” concentrates on news debates on important discussions, another show he hosted “Kelvika Enna Baddil” (What is the answer to this question?) is a one-on-one interview with notable news-making personalities. Having completed 150 episodes, some of his notable interviews have been with then prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and BCCI head N Srinivasan. Having come out with a 32-page handwritten weekly magazine when he was in the eleventh standard, Pandey remained passionate about journalism from a very young age. He did his MA Tamil from Madurai Kamaraj University and then joined Dinamalar in 1999. After 14 years, he joined Thanthi TV in 2012. Within a span of six months he was promoted twice, becoming the editor-in-chief of Thanthi TV. He also used to pen articles while working for Dinamalar called "Doubt Thanabalu" - a popular satirical column which runs to this day. "I have experienced a lot of walkouts in my show," says Pandey giving examples of DMK leader Duraimurugan and MDMK leader, Vaiko. I have a simple policy in my shows, he says. "I certainly will ask all that I want to know. But I will not compel anybody to answer," he adds. KS Sugitha, Kalaignar TV- "Makkalin Kural" A prominent face of Kalaignar TV, she anchors an afternoon debate called Makkalin Kural that discusses political issues. Sugitha anchors a morning show analyzing newspapers called ‘Naadum Eadum.’ Sugitha started her career with Vikatan and later joined Dinamalar in 2007. She has been anchoring on Kalaignar Tv ever since she joined in 2008. Sugitha’s programmes have brought to fore a large number of women and children’s issues. She has also broken barriers taking up taboo issues like menstruation and difficulties women face. She also conducts a weekend interview show called “Uratta Sindanai” Thiyaga Chemmal, Puthiya Thalaimurai - “Nerpadu Pesu” The Chief of News Bureau at the Puthiya Thalaimurai in Chennai, Chemmal has recently also begun anchoring the show ‘Nerpadu Pesu’ along with his senior editor Gunasekaran . Another show he is part of is “Pudu Pudu Arthangal”, a news analysis on different political issues every morning between 7am and 8am. “The biggest challenge is getting prepared for the morning show. We have to be prepared, analyse all the papers, give the discussion a shape and select at least six topics that we can talk about,” he says. Born and brought up in Coimbatore, Chemmal completed his BSc. in Visual communication and also worked at Ananda Vikatan in 2004 as a student reporter. After working as a freelancer in Vikatan from 2006-07, he then moved to Sun News as a special correspondent in 2007. After short stints at Jaya TV and Polimer TV, he moved to Puthiya Thalaimurai when the channel launched. The first to break the story in 2014 on the Sri Lankan defence ministry website carrying an article denigrating PM Modi and Jayalalithaa, Chemmal’s story ended up resulting in Sri Lanka apologising to India over the write up. “The format has changed a lot in the news industry. Earlier everything was recorded. Now, everything is live,” he says, admitting that since competition has risen, the field had become more challenging. Venkada Prakash, Puthiya Thalamurai- "Makkal Medai" He started out as an interviewer for Win Tv in 2004 and later joined Doordarshan Tamil as a news reader. In an interview attended by almost 12,000 people, just a dozen people were chosen. This is also where he met his future wife, Poonguzhali Anichan, a prominent face on Puthiya Thalamurai. From DD, he went to Kumudham.com, where Prakash was in charge of streaming videos and streamlining technology. "I was multi-tasking then, but was very clued in to technology. Veteran tamil journalist Ravi Bernard was my mentor at Kumudham, then I later worked for Zee Tamizh," he says. An engineering graduate from Sriviliputhur, Prakash became an entreprenuer for some time. Later he came back to news and joined PT before the channel's launch. His show Makkal Medai weaves in what viewers from across the state and country think of contemporary issues. "My various job stints helped me hone my skills, but it was PT that helped me gain recognition as an anchor," he says. Sports/news anchor Sharanya Sundaraj, Puthiya Thalamurai- "Odi Vilayaadu" News correspondent at Puthiya Thalamurai Sharanya Sundaraj has specialised in sports journalism. She anchors a weekly show called ‘Odi Vilayaadu’ that summarises the major sporting events and news of the week. Sharanya also anchors prime time news bulletins on the channel. She started her career at Kalaignar TV in 2005 and then moved on to Raj TV as a producer and anchor. She later became a morning anchor on Zee Thamizh. After a small stint in movies, Sharanya then joined Puthiya Thalamurai. Sharanya, known for her vivacious anchoring, also hosts Sakthi awards for women. She was one of the few journalists from South India who covered the London Olympics.
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