Kunal Nayyar, resident geek on the Zee Cafe’s television series, The Big Bang Theory insists that he is not too different from his television alter ego, Raj Koothrapali.
“That accent,” he confesses, “is exactly the one I had when I first landed in the United States, all of 17 years old. I was a Delhi boy and had studied in St Columbas all my life.”
With his crippling inability to talk to women unless drunk, also known as “selective mutism”, Raj makes even geeky look cute. In real life, what would Nayyar describe as his one social disability? “I am afraid of heights. That doesn’t count? Well then I have none, as pretentious as that sounds. I am a people’s person.”
The Big Bang Theory is eternally faithful to most Indian stereotypes with Raj’s sweater vests, his relationship with his long distance parents over the webcam and his hopes of an arranged marriage where he sings lullabies to his wife.
An episode even saw Raj making scandalous remarks about Bollywood actresses - whose idea was that?
“The writers’ idea. I do nothing but answer all the India related questions they shoot at me like, ‘what do you call a kite in Hindi?’ or ‘what would you eat at a bowling alley in India?’ They weave their dialogues around these things.”
He says that all the scientific facts on the show are 100 per cent authentic, “Even the equations on the white board in Lennard and Sheldon’s apartment. But often physicist fans write in to discredit some theory or the other.”
Also, filming in front of a live audience can be quite a task. “I always end up laughing in the middle of my lines, and then we have to redo the shot. A lot of times the jokes we had used in practice fall flat in front of the audience. The writers then have to be summoned to change the joke.”
He ends by saying, “I would love to do Bollywood and I am discussing a few projects. But I would rather do social movies than be the quintessential Bollywood hero.”
And as for Raj, Nayyar informs us that he might never get over his shyness when it comes to women. “Every character has an obstacle and that is what makes the show funny. Having said that, it is all up to the producer.”