A compelling presenceTV presenter and Chief Executive Producer of Kantipur TV Suraj Singh Thakuri talks about his two-decade-long media journey and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
At a time when TV presenters had to abide by formal dresscodes, use traditional words and shied away from informality, stepped in Suraj Singh Thakuri—whose easiness in words, long hair, torn jeans and casualness set him apart from his contemporaries. “I was a witty guy,” says Thakuri from his office at Kantipur TV in Tinkune, Kathmandu. “Because of my spontaneity and casual nature, we decided to create a show just like that called ‘Call Kantipur’.” Despite passing the baton to younger hosts over a decade ago, he says he is still recognised as the ‘Call Kantipur guy’.
Born in Kathmandu, Thakuri’s childhood was marked by an affinity for athletics. He loved sports and didn’t shy away from a competitive game of cricket and football. After completing tenth grade in 1996, Thakuri spent two years in the scenic Mussoorie, India, to finish his high school education. After returning, he enrolled in the environmental science programme at Xavier’s Academy, envisioning a career in the field. Driven by curiosity, he pursued this interest further, earning a master’s degree from the School of Environmental Science and Management (SchEMS) in 2003.
Until then, Thakuri had no idea that he would spend the next two decades being in front of the camera. “I wouldn’t have believed it had anyone told me then,” he says. At the time, he admired a TV presenter named Nikhil Chinapa, who has been associated with MTV India since the late 1990s and has appeared in multiple television shows, including ‘Roadies’ and ‘Splitsvilla’. “I liked his way of presenting and wanted to showcase a similar personality,” he says. Gradually, Thakuri found himself drawn to the world of spotlight and cameras.
During Kantipur TV's 100th-day establishment celebration in 2003, he collaborated with the then Chief Executive Producer, Bhusan Dahal, to craft a show reflecting his persona. Before this, he hosted light-hearted programmes on Divya Dhristi International Television and Channel Nepal, including ‘Music and More’, ‘On Demand’ and ‘Tea Talk’.
On October 20, 2003, one of Nepal’s most beloved TV shows, ‘Call Kantipur’, made its debut. It was a pioneering programme, being the first to go live, with the host, Thakuri, engaging directly with callers. Before ‘Call Kantipur’, no Nepali TV musical programme featured live phone conversations.
“When we started,” reflects Thakuri, “We didn’t think it would be this impactful.” Initially scheduled for a 5 pm broadcast, he wasn’t overly confident about the timing. “At 5 pm on a workday, people are usually on the road, heading home from work,” he notes. Despite the seemingly inconvenient timing, the show took off, and calls flooded in.
“After ‘Call Kantipur’, I realised there’s no such thing as off-time or prime time,” he says. Regardless of the schedule, if the essence of the show appeals to viewers, they will watch it, no matter how ‘inconvenient’ the timing seems. “As I always say, content is king,” adds Thakuri.
In those ten years at the show, Thakuri made a lot of friends and developed a deep connection with his callers and viewers. One such caller, named Dibesh, was a regular guest on the line, and they often chatted openly about things on live television. Thakuri had announced that a dedicated caller who made it through to fifty calls would come on the show as a guest, and Dibesh came on the show twice, having surpassed over a hundred calls. This was one of the unique features of the show: the surprise guests and unexpected conversations. “We also had some very tough and tragic conversations on the show,” recalls Thakuri. “Nepali workers in gulf countries would regularly call, especially from Saudi Arabia, getting nostalgic and reminiscing Nepal,” he adds.
After quitting ‘Call Kantipur’, he shifted his focus to social issues in programmes like ‘Ghumgham’ and ‘Native Tunes’. Then, in 2018, when Kantipur TV moved to a high-definition version, Thakuri took that as an opportunity to start a new chapter in his career. “I always wanted to host a late-night show in Nepal, where live bands would perform,” he says. This vision of his led to the creation of ‘It’s My Show With Suraj Singh Thakuri’. Initially, notable figures whom Thakuri was acquainted with over the years came on as guests on the show. Later on, he invited a diverse range of people and engaged with them in light-hearted conversations.
When the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the world, he shifted his focus towards highlighting social issues. “It was a challenging period. Lives were being lost daily. In such times, I felt it was inappropriate to continue with a light-hearted show, so I decided to shed light on serious social issues,” explains Thakuri.
In one episode, he invited Muskan Khatun and Ramraja Thapa, victims of acid attack. Their story got the attention of KP Sharma Oli, the prime minister at the time, who opened a dialogue to seriously discuss the matter and later signed an ordinance to control acid sales and prosecute offenders of acid attacks. “The prime minister gave us over three hours of his precious time and was very determined to address our concerns,” says Thakuri.
Subsequently, in 2021, the US government awarded Khatun the International Woman of Courage Award. She was also invited to a programme on International Women’s Day at the White House in 2023.
Thakuri continued to present episodes addressing serious societal issues, including rape, the rights of the LGBTQ community and mental health, among others.
In 2021, he was appointed as the chief executive producer of Kantipur TV. His responsibility demands immense effort as he looks after the entire broadcasting of programmes on the channel. Reflecting on this, he said, “When I started in 2003, I had little knowledge of production and what happened in the background. Slowly, I learned the craft, and I am still trying to better myself.”
Beyond his TV career, Thakuri has ventured into acting in films such as ‘Karkash’, the sequels (II and III) of ‘Nai Na Bhannu La’, ‘Junge’ and ‘Summer Love’. Additionally, he has directed and acted in numerous music videos.
Recognising his contributions to the television and media industry, along with his notable efforts to address societal concerns, President Ramchandra Paudel honoured him with one of the highest presidential civilian awards, the Prabal Jana Sewa Shree, in April 2023.
When asked about the most valuable lesson he’s learned in his two-decades-long career, he takes a thoughtful pause and shares, “Always be yourself and keep correcting yourself.” Looking ahead, Thakuri aims for more opportunities to enhance himself, support the younger generation and share inspiring stories with the public and community.