|The Big Bang Theory character|
Kunal Nayyar as Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali
|Created by||Chuck Lorre
|Portrayed by||Kunal Nayyar|
|Family||Dr. V.M. Koothrappali (father)
Mrs. Koothrappali (mother)
Priya Koothrappali (sister)
3 unnamed brothers
1 unnamed sister
Grandfather Koothrappali (grandfather)
Rajesh is Howard Wolowitz's (Simon Helberg) best friend, with whom Raj shares what Nayyar calls a "bromance", although the relationship is frequently made awkward by Raj's metrosexuality. Raj works as an astrophysicist in the Physics Department at Caltech. His principal characteristic is selective mutism (social anxiety disorder), which does not allow him to talk to women unless under the influence of alcohol, though he was seemingly cured of this in the season 6 finale.
Rajesh, who is normally called Raj, or by his surname Koothrappali by Sheldon Cooper, is from New Delhi, India. However, he despises Indian food, and his knowledge of Indian culture and Hinduism are often disputed by Sheldon Cooper. He was born into a wealthy family and has five siblings, one of whom is Priya, a former girlfriend of Leonard's. Raj is normally seen wearing a layered combination of a shirt and sweater vest, khakis, and a windbreaker, usually of brightly colored fleece or pastel gabardine. In the pilot, he wears a red cap.
It was revealed in "The Monster Isolation" that Raj did at least part of his higher education at the University of Cambridge, where he discovered his interest in astrophysics.
Generally, Raj is more patient with Sheldon than Leonard, Howard, or Penny is; however, Sheldon is completely oblivious to this, and in one episode casually cuts him off as a friend. Raj's favorite drink is a Grasshopper, which is what he was drinking when he realized that alcohol allows him to talk to women, although he drinks other alcoholic beverages for the same effect.
One of Raj's primary personality quirks is his tendency to act or speak inappropriately, often earning him glares and negative remarks from the other characters. In "The Santa Simulation", he openly acknowledges having had a crush on Penny and Bernadette directly in front of them, simultaneously making them uncomfortable and Amy upset, and fails to recognise this despite Penny and Bernadette's best efforts to tell him. Another recurring joke is his weakness for media generally consumed by females. Typically, one of the boys will slander something (such as Sex and the City or the actress Sandra Bullock) and Raj will eagerly defend it, usually through an exasperated Howard, since it is normally Penny or Bernadette who brings up the topic. Raj doesn't realize he acts feminine until "The Closure Alternative", which Raj finds that Lucy had called him feminine, as a compliment. He does not do well under the influence of alcohol, and oftentimes embarrasses himself greatly or ends up with a hangover.
When hanging out with his friends, despite his Indian accent, Raj is noted for using slang ("fo' shizzle") and using the word "dude", although on some occasions he does not understand American slang. While he seems to speak fluent Hindi, his mother tongue is English.
Raj's principal characteristic is his shyness and inability to speak to or around non-related women, a medical condition known as selective mutism. In the show, this was alluded to by Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, Leonard's mother. Raj also states he has selective mutism in the episode "The Cornhusker Vortex". Raj is able to speak in the presence of women only when they are part of a crowd, unless he has been drinking alcohol (or thinks he has been), if he is under influence of drugs, or if he is unaware of their presence. He notes, however, that this is an improvement over his previous affliction, in which the presence of women would cause him to lose bladder control. He has no problem speaking to his mother or sisters, or any female relatives.
Since many of the scenes involve Penny, Raj remains silent until she leaves, or alternatively he whispers what he wants to say to Howard or Leonard, who then repeats his words or responds to his question out loud; sometimes, however, Howard uses Raj's inability to provide amusement for himself, such as when Howard "confesses" on Raj's behalf that Raj stalks Penny with binoculars, or when Sheldon calls Penny over to their table to silence Raj and Howard refuses to act as a mouthpiece and tells Raj, "Suck it up; (Sheldon) won." One time during a conversation, Raj accidentally uttered a few words ("good story") much to the surprise of his friends, but he immediately realized Penny was there and he shut his mouth and covered it with both hands. A recurring gag is for Raj to find himself left all alone when his friends make plans to go somewhere, his selective mutism preventing him from speaking up to join in. Penny occasionally torments him about it, such as saying "Yo Raj, talk to me".
Alcohol appears to suppress Raj's social anxiety, since he is capable of prolonged conversations with women after drinking even a tiny amount. Eating a bite of rum cake proved sufficient to overcome his problem. However, it also tends to make him loud and obnoxious. When the main characters took a train to an academic conference in San Francisco, Raj was able to talk to Summer Glau (playing herself) while drinking beer. However, when Leonard discovered that the beer was non-alcoholic and that Raj was under a placebo effect, Howard used this to his advantage, resulting in Raj returning to his usual mute self. In recent episodes, he has taken to carrying a hip-flask with him to remedy to his problem.
Raj has experimented with medications that suppress social anxiety, but they tend to have side effects. When Sheldon's sister Missy visited, Raj took a drug that enabled him to talk to her, but it resulted in involuntary repetitive hand motions. Raj also considered a different drug, but worried that it affected his rationality. Sheldon encouraged him to take the drug, which enabled him to speak to a woman in a coffee shop, but led to a loss of inhibition, with him stripping naked in public.
In Season One Episode 7, The Dumpling Paradox, Raj retorts when Leonard jokingly suggests cutting Raj in half in order for the group to play Halo without Howard while Penny is still in the room. Raj turns to face Leonard (facing away from Penny) and responds, "Oh sure, cut the foreigner in half. There's a billion more where he came from."
In the episode "The Fish Guts Displacement", Raj has been seen talking in front of Penny about his time with his dad without him being shy. This is part of a general trend of his mutism weakening, so as to widen the set of available plots. The Season Six episode, "The Santa Simulation" is another instance of the mutism disappearing; again he is able to speak to women. In both instances, a beer or wine glass was placed nearby him. These are examples of the mutism plot still being in play but not being given direct attention. Another example of this being that Raj was able to perform part of Howard and Bernadette's wedding ceremony, but he had been drinking beforehand while the guys were getting dressed in Leonard and Sheldon's apartment.
At the end of the season 6 finale "The Bon Voyage Reaction", Raj's selective mutism seems to have finally cured itself after Lucy leaves him, as Raj discovers he is able to talk to Penny, Amy, and Bernadette while completely sober, his chatter carrying over the end credits of the episode.
In Season 7 his mutism is no longer an issue as Raj is able to speak with women in the room without being drunk and without any source of alcohol nearby him in the scenes.
Raj regularly communicates with his parents, Dr. and Mrs. V.M. Koothrappali back in India via webcam. When they become meddling or judgmental, he "brings his parents" into Leonard and Sheldon's apartment via his laptop. In the Season 2 finale, Mrs. Koothrappali and Mrs. Wolowitz have an argument because the latter doesn't believe that there isn't a single Outback Steakhouse restaurant in India.
A running gag in the series is Raj portraying himself as having come from humble origins and growing up in poverty in India, only for his friends to remind him that his father is a gynecologist, drives a Bentley (which he protests was a "lease"), and had servants growing up (although he protests on one occasion there were only four servants and two of them were children). In the episode "The Wiggly Finger Catalyst", Sheldon (who is a Notary Public), reveals that Raj's family is wealthier than he lets on (he says they are "Richie Rich rich", which he explains is "halfway between Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck").
Raj's cousin, Sanjay (or, as he says his friends know him, "Dave from AT&T Customer Service") works in a call centre, and is mentioned in a number of episodes. Raj is seen trying to avoid going back to India for his cousin's wedding, since Raj's parents had arranged a date for him.
Raj has three brothers and two sisters. Raj's sister Priya has a one-night stand with Leonard in Season 4, which leads to a brief fight between Leonard, Raj, and Howard for breaking the "pinky swear" they made about never trying to make a move with her. Later in the series, Priya and Leonard start a relationship, against Raj's wishes, which is awkward as she is living with Raj at the time. In the Season 4 finale, Raj also had to temporarily move into Sheldon's apartment after overhearing Leonard using Star Trek references as sex metaphors to his sister.
For his discovery of a planetary object beyond the Kuiper belt, 2008 NQ17, which he named "Planet Bollywood", Raj was included in People magazine's "30 (Visionaries) Under 30 (Years of Age) to Watch", received a larger office, and became a celebrity of sorts, drawing the envy of his friends.
After six months of failed research on the composition of trans-Neptunian objects, Raj feared being deported back to India (at which point, he describes spending his time at work as "mostly checking e-mail, updating my facebook status, and messing up Wikipedia entries"). To stay in the country, he sought out a research position in stellar evolution with Professor Laughlin; the job proposition failed as the research team included an attractive female, and Raj, who accidentally drank too much, made a sexually explicit comment. Raj ended up working alongside Sheldon, (or "for" him as Sheldon insists), "exploring the string theory implications of gamma rays from dark matter annihilations". Ironically, he noted that he once wanted to be the "Indira Gandhi of particle astrophysics (except with a penis)". During season 6, Raj has developed a talent to be a party planner that was demonstrated at the time of Howard and Bernadette's wedding, and the Halloween, and Valentine's Day parties, at the comic book store.
Raj has not been involved in any lasting romantic relationship, mostly due to his inability to speak to women. However, he is much more successful in casual sex than the more sexually aggressive Howard. He once dated Lalita Gupta, a childhood friend, in an arrangement made by his parents. With Raj able to speak to her only under the influence of alcohol, the date went badly, and Lalita left the drunk and obnoxious Raj to have dinner with Sheldon.
When Raj was invited to People magazine's reception, he became drunk again and presented Penny to his parents (via webcam) as his girlfriend. Later, he had to apologize to Penny for his behavior. Although he tried apologizing through a written note, Penny forced him to utter a barely audible "sorry".
Raj also sought to date Sheldon's attractive twin sister, Missy. To do so, he took an experimental drug to correct his anxiety disorder. He was the only one, out of himself, Howard and Leonard, that Missy wanted to go out with. However, he was unable to ask her out as the effect of the medication wore off.
When Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj were on a train to San Francisco, the latter three tried talking to Summer Glau. After drinking what he thought was a beer, Raj talked to Summer. Because he was flirty and smooth, she took a liking to him. When Howard pointed out that his beer was non-alcoholic, Raj stopped in the middle of his conversation, and rushed away from Summer without saying any more.
Raj revealed that he once had a girlfriend, after Leonard claimed that the two of them were the only ones without them. She has never appeared in the show, but he claims that she is deaf, so his inability to speak with women isn't an issue. Raj has a crush on Howard's girlfriend, Bernadette, and is visibly unhappy when she accepts Howard's marriage proposal.
Despite both being ostensibly heterosexual, Raj and Howard often act like they are in a homosexual relationship. This was described by Leonard's mother, Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, as an "ersatz homosexual marriage". Even Raj's parents are aware of this, as Raj's mother once noted "the closest thing we have to a daughter-in-law is that Jewish boy Howard!", which Raj quickly denied. Despite the denials, Raj often takes up the stereotypically "female" role in arguments with Howard, once expressing his displeasure at Howard constantly ditching him to chase women. Raj recounts a dream where he and Howard both had mansions with a secret tunnel that connected Howard's "front yard" to his "back yard". He uses a female avatar in World of Warcraft. In season four he claims to be a metrosexual.
In the 2011 season 4 finale, Penny and Raj get drunk and, despite agreeing to remain good friends, end up in bed together. The next morning, both agree to pretend it never happened, but they are caught by Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard as they try to leave, causing Penny to think about moving back to Nebraska. In the opening episode of season 5, Raj reveals to Penny that they did not have sex; instead he ejaculated prematurely and they fell asleep. Penny promised not to tell the guys, although subsequently she sometimes calls him "Quickdraw".
Later in season 5, Penny thought she found the perfect match for Raj by hooking him up with a woman who was deaf. However, it turns out she only liked Raj for his money and left him when she found out his parents would cut his financial ties if they continued to see each other.
Finally, in despair, Raj asked his parents to find him a potential bride for an arranged marriage. Raj hit it off with his parents' first selection, but discovered that the woman was only looking for a husband to convince her family that she was not a lesbian. She assumed Raj was gay and that they would have a lavender marriage, an idea Raj considered as a viable option to lifelong bachelorhood, until Howard and Bernadette convince him otherwise.
Out of their concern for his loneliness, Howard and Bernadette give him a pet dog. Happy with his new companion, Cinnamon (a female Yorkshire Terrier), Raj proceeded to see if the pet would fit in his man-purse. This leads Bernadette to question Raj's sexuality. Ironically, in the episode "The Thespian Catalyst", Raj fantasizes various scenarios in which he is placed in situations where he must fulfill a promise to Howard to please Bernadette sexually, including Howard being killed in an accident, he must go to Israel for two years, leaving Bernadette behind, etc. When he finishes the fantasies, he concludes he is "definitely not gay".
At Howard's bachelor party, a drunk Raj tells all the guests about how Howard lost his virginity to his second cousin, his Las Vegas prostitute experience, and their three-some with a pudgy Sailor Moon girl at ComicCon which Wil Wheaton uploads to the Internet. Bernadette is furious after seeing the video.
In the season six episode, "The Tangible Affection Proof", Raj and his friend, comic book store owner Stuart, put together a party at the store for lonely people on Valentine's Day. After giving a speech about how one can't define themselves by being in a relationship, he is approached by a girl (Kate Micucci). Raj and the girl leave to get a cup of coffee, with Raj declaring "later losers!", hinting at Raj finally having a relationship. In "The Monster Isolation" Lucy flees during their coffee date sending Raj into depression and isolation in his apartment. Later Lucy goes to his apartment to apologize and tells him that she has problems around new people. Raj describes his own psychological problem and they agree to a formal date.
In the following episode, "The Contractual Obligation Implementation", he takes Lucy out for a first date to a library where they text each other instead of talking, helping her deal with her social anxiety and him with his selective mutism. They continue to date and by "The Love Spell Potential" they do kiss, though it is through a chain-link fence. However, in the season 6 finale "The Bon Voyage Reaction", Lucy feels too pressured by Raj to meet his friends, and a dinner between Lucy, Raj, and Amy doesn't go well. Raj apologizes for his behavior and asks Lucy to come to Leonard's goodbye party before his departure for the North Sea on Professor Stephen Hawking's expedition. However, Lucy texts him at the party saying she won't be there and doesn't want to see him again. The next day, Penny goes to comfort a heartbroken Raj, who thinks he is completely unlovable. Penny tells him it was just the booze talking, but Raj hadn't had a drink since the night before. He was finally cured of his selective mutism. In fact, he was so cured of it, he couldn't stop talking about what went wrong in his relationship with Lucy, which ironically compelled Penny, Bernadette, and Amy to start drinking to tolerate his non-stop talking.
Creation and casting
Raj did not appear in the original, unaired pilot of the series, where only Sheldon, Leonard, and a different version of the Penny character, called Katie, were present. The test audiences reacted negatively to Katie, but liked Sheldon and Leonard. In the new pilot, Raj and Howard were added. Series co-creator Bill Prady stated: "The idea was, if they like these first two guys, let’s give them two more". Rajesh's social anxiety around women was inspired by a former co-worker of Prady. Originally the character was called "Dave", and was an American born to Indian parents. This was changed when Nayyar won the role, because he was "so Indian".
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