Raj Koothrappali has amused fans for years now. However awkward his on-screen character may be, Kunal Nayyar was chosen because he charmed the producer’s hearts.
Before Kunal Nayyar charmed the ‘Big Bang’ makers, few would have noticed him. Now, as the show has ended, his image is altered. Millions of fans who tuned into TBBT weekly remember the sheepish and often off-putting Raj Koothrappali. How did his career get this way?
- Kunal Nayyar’s career
- Raj Koothrappali
- Why was Kunal cast as Raj?
Kunal Nayyar was the third-highest paid television actor in 2018. But, before television took over his life, his life was headed in the traditional direction. Nayyar has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Portland, Oregon.
When asked about his early studies, Kunal Nayyar said that he learned acting from Mindi Logan, where “she taught me the importance of the basics: circumstances, objectives, actions, and all that. And I still use that to this day”. After this training, he went on to do an MFA in acting.
His stage life started with ‘Huck and Holden’, written by Rajiv Joseph. The drama caught the attention of producers. He even won the “Black Stage Garland Award” for his performance as an Indian Exchange Student in the play in 2007.
2007 was also when his life took a turn, as he was cast as Raj Koothrappali in ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Despite his success with the hit sitcom, the actor has kept returning to theatre from time to time.
‘The Spoils,’ where he stars beside Jesse Eisenberg, opened to rave reviews from “NYT” and other outlets. He has voiced characters in ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ and ‘Trolls’.
Koothrappali in ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ was not the average joe. He was an astrophysicist with a PhD who achieved things. He was also a tremendous nerd.
The show followed his story as he became more comfortable talking to women and socializing. As someone who had played an Indian student who just didn’t fit into the American life in ‘Huck and Holden’, Nayyar worked into the role perfectly.
However, there were some caveats from the very start. Koothrappali’s character has been seen as racist by many activists. The portrayal of Indian masculinity as awkward and something completely separate from the Western identity causes Raj to be a caricature.
Arguments can be made that most TBBT characters were similarly stunted. However, he couldn’t even talk with women; it was played up for comedic value.
Nayyar, however, has said that playing an innocent character like Raj has made him feel happy and fresh for the show’s entire duration.
While criticism of the show never relented, Koothrappali did learn to talk to women in the later seasons and had a satisfying character arc.
Kunal Nayyar wasn’t meant to play Rajesh in the show. Rajesh might not even have been Indian. The producers wanted a person from outside America, but the brief didn’t include much else.
However, when Kunal Nayyar appeared on set, he charmed his way into the role. Kunal Nayyar’s charming nature got him TBBT. For a character that is awkward almost for the whole show’s runtime, this seems unlikely. However, producers said that
“it was just Person Number Eight on a day of Twenty-Seven people, and he was charming”.
Nayyar is trained on stage and can bring his charisma onto the screen, so it makes sense. He is still a pleasant and naturally funny person. So, Kunal Nayyar charmed the ‘Big Bang’ makers and made a bit of history with his show.
Raj Koothrappali is a hotly debated character. Throughout the show’s runtime, the character’s supposed racism and the way he is portrayed have been questioned repeatedly. However, the same can’t be said for Kunal Nayyar, an accomplished actor who has put over ten years of work into the show. Of course, with a long-acting career and a background in theatre, he charmed his way into a show which wasn’t even supposed to have an Indian at first, and in doing so, changed sitcoms forever.