|The Big Bang Theory character|
Kunal Nayyar as Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali
|Created by||Chuck Lorre
|Portrayed by||Kunal Nayyar|
|Nickname(s)||Raj, Brown Dynamite|
|Family||Dr. V.M. Koothrappali (father)
Mrs. Koothrappali (mother)
Priya Koothrappali (younger sister)
3 unnamed brothers
1 unnamed sister
|Significant other(s)||Emily Sweeney|
Raj 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. He had selective mutism, which did not allow him to talk to women outside of his family unless he was under the influence of alcohol (or medication), until the season 6 finale. Raj is one of four characters to appear in every episode of the series, along with Sheldon, Howard, and Leonard.
Rajesh, who is normally called Raj or just by his surname Koothrappali, is from New Delhi, India. However, he despises Indian food, and his lack of knowledge about Indian culture and Hinduism are often rebuked by Sheldon. He was born into a wealthy family and has five siblings, one of whom is Priya, a former on-off girlfriend of Leonard. Raj is normally seen wearing a layered combination of a shirt and sweater vest, khakis or cargo pants with skate shoes and a track top-style windbreaker in either fleece or nylon. Raj wore a red cap in the pilot episode, but has not worn any headgear on a regular basis for the rest of the series' run.
Raj joins in playing Halo online and trading-card games with his friends, and has even claimed to have experienced gaming addiction in the past. 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.
Another recurring joke is his metrosexuality, which manifests itself in his appreciation for media generally associated with female patrons, such as the novel Eat, Pray, Love, the TV series Sex and the City and the films of Sandra Bullock. This has led those close to him to opine that he is somewhat feminine (as in "The Closure Alternative"), and others to mistakenly conclude that he is homosexual (a theory his sister mentioned in "The Herb Garden Germination" had been held by members of their family), though Raj typically denies this, as in the episode "The Transporter Malfunction".
One of Raj's biggest personality quirks is his tendency to speak or act inappropriately, often landing him in trouble or leading to an angry reaction from whomever he has upset. On one occasion, just as Leonard and Penny are about to have sex in their hotel room, Raj enters and obliviously proceeds to climb into Sheldon's recently vacated bed, completely unaware of what he has interrupted. On another occasion, he openly discussed having had crushes on Penny and Bernadette directly in front of them, which caused both discomfort, and unwittingly hurting Amy's feelings when he admits that he never had a crush on her as well (despite Penny and Bernadette's best efforts to alert him to this fact).
When socializing with his friends, despite his Indian accent, Raj is noted for using slang and using the word "dude", although on some occasions he does not understand American slang. He speaks fluent Hindi, but according to Sheldon, his mother tongue is English.
Until the season six finale, Raj's principal characteristic was his 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 stated he has selective mutism in the episode "The Cornhusker Vortex". Raj was able to speak in the presence of women only when they were part of a crowd, unless he had been drinking alcoholic beverages (or thinks he has been), if he was under influence of other drugs, if he was unaware of their presence, or if the woman is deaf. He observed that this was an improvement over his previous affliction, in which the presence of women caused him to lose bladder control. He had no problem speaking to his mother, sisters, or other female relatives.
Until the end of the sixth season, Raj remained silent when Penny was present. Penny occasionally taunted him about this, saying such things as "Yo, Raj, talk to me". Raj sometimes whispered what he wanted to say to Howard or Leonard, who then repeated his words or responded to his question out loud. However, Howard sometimes used the situation to amuse himself—for example, when he "confessed" on Raj's behalf that Raj stalked Penny with binoculars, or when Sheldon called Penny over to their table to silence Raj; Howard then refused to act as a mouthpiece and told Raj, "No no no, he won; Suck it up." In "The Dumpling Paradox", Leonard jokingly suggests cutting Raj in half so the group can play video games without Howard while Penny is in the room: Raj turns to Leonard (facing away from Penny) and responds, "Oh, sure, cut the foreigner in half. There's a billion more where he came from." Later, in "The Bat Jar Conjecture", Raj accidentally utters a few words ("good story"), much to the surprise of his friends, but he immediately realizes Penny is there and covers his mouth with both hands. A recurring gag was for Raj to find himself left alone when his friends, in the company of Penny or another woman, make plans to go somewhere and Raj's mutism prevents him from speaking up to join in.
In "The Grasshopper Experiment", Penny (who was practicing mixing cocktails in order to obtain a bartending shift) inadvertently discovered that Raj's mutism could be suppressed by consuming alcohol: even a tiny amount (such as a bite of rum cake in "The Apology Insufficiency") enabled him to have prolonged conversations with women; however, this also tends to make him loud and obnoxious. When the main characters take a train to an academic conference in San Francisco, Raj can talk to series guest Summer Glau (playing herself) while drinking beer: when Leonard inadvertently discovers the beer is non-alcoholic and that Raj is under a placebo effect, Howard uses this to his advantage and Raj is returned to his usual mute self. In some episodes, Raj took to carrying a hip flask with him to counter his problem, while in other episodes that required him to speak with Penny or other women present, he was usually shown doing so with a beer or wine glass near him to indicate he had consumed alcohol (such as "The Santa Simulation").
Raj experimented with medications that suppressed social anxiety, but they tended to have side effects. When Sheldon's sister Missy visited, Raj took medicine that enabled him to speak to her, but it resulted in involuntary repetitive hand motions. In the episode "The Wildebeest Implementation", Raj was worried that an experimental drug he was considering might affect his rationality, but Sheldon encouraged him to take it anyway: however, Raj's worries were realized while speaking to a woman in a coffee shop when he completely lost all inhibitions and removed all of his clothing.
At the end of the Season 6 finale "The Bon Voyage Reaction", Raj's girlfriend Lucy breaks up with him. The subsequent trauma apparently cures his mutism, and he finds he can talk to Penny, Amy, and Bernadette while completely sober. However, he talks so much that the women become bored and irritated and start drinking in order to put up with him.
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 does not believe that there is not 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 gynaecologist, drives a Bentley (which he protests was a "lease"), and had servants (although he protests on one occasion that there were only four servants, and that two of them were children). In the episode "The Wiggly Finger Catalyst", Sheldon reveals that Raj's family is wealthier than he lets on. He observes that 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. In one episode, Raj tries to avoid returning to India for his cousin's wedding, as Raj's parents have 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. This leads to a brief argument between Leonard, Raj and Howard for breaking the "pinky swear" they made about never trying to make a move on 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 had to move temporarily into Sheldon's apartment after overhearing Leonard using Star Trek references as sexual metaphors to his sister.
Also, in the season 3 episode "The Precious Fragmentation", Raj tries to negotiate the possession of the One Ring with the help of his cousin Venkatesh Koothrappali, who is an attorney (but agrees with Raj that he is useless in that role).
In the season 7 episode "The Table Polarization", Raj talks about naming his first child Dileep after his grandfather.
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 his 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 woman, and Raj, who became drunk so he could talk to her, made an inappropriate 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 (but with a penis, of course)". 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.
For most of the series' run, Raj had not been involved in any lasting romantic relationship, mostly due to his inability to speak to women. However, he was 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 goes badly, and Lalita left the intoxicated and bothersome Raj to have dinner with Sheldon.
After Raj behaves boorishly with Penny while at a People magazine reception, and presents Penny to his parents (via webcam) as his girlfriend, he later apologizes, first with a written note. When Penny forces him to do so verbally, he utters a barely audible "sorry".
Raj also seeks to date Sheldon's attractive twin sister, Missy. To do so, he takes an experimental drug to correct his anxiety disorder. He is the only one, out of himself, Howard and Leonard, that Missy showed any interest in, but the medication wears off when he tries to ask her out.
When Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj are on a train to San Francisco, the latter three tried talking to actress Summer Glau, who they see is in their train car. After drinking what he thinks is a beer, Raj is able to charm Glau. When a jealous Howard points out to Raj that his beer is non-alcoholic, Raj stops speaking in the middle of his conversation, and flees from Glau.
Raj reveals that he once had a girlfriend, after Leonard claims that the two of them were the only ones without them. She has never appeared in the show, but he states that she was deaf, so his inability to speak with women was not an issue. Raj has an infatuation with Howard's girlfriend, Bernadette, and is visibly unhappy when she accepts Howard's marriage proposal. This antagonizes Howard when Howard learns of it.
Despite both being heterosexual, Raj and Howard occasionally appear as if they are in a homosexual relationship. This is 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 notes "the closest thing we have to a daughter-in-law is that Jewish boy Howard!". 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, and in season 8 it is revealed that he and Howard were once in couples therapy.
In the season 4 finale, Penny and Raj become intoxicated 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 intercourse; instead he ejaculated prematurely and they fell asleep. Penny promised not to tell the guys, although subsequently she sometimes calls him "Quick Draw".
In season 5, Raj buys a new iPhone and quickly develops feelings for the computerized personal assistant, Siri. Later in season 5, Penny believes she has found the perfect match for Raj by having him meet a woman who was deaf: however, it turns out she only dated Raj for his money and leaves him when he tells her that his parents will cut off financial ties with him if they continued to see each other. Finally, in despair, Raj asks his parents to find him a potential bride for an arranged marriage. Raj gets along well with his parents' first selection, but discovers that the woman is a lesbian trying to conceal her sexual orientation from her family: she assumes Raj is also homosexual 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, a female Yorkshire Terrier he names Cinnamon, Raj proceeds to see if the pup fits in his man-purse. This leads Bernadette to dispute Raj's heterosexuality. In the episode "The Thespian Catalyst", Raj fantasizes various scenarios in which Howard dies or is rendered an invalid, and Raj must satisfy Bernadette's sexual needs. This culminates in a dream sequence where he and Bernadette dance Bollywood musical number. He reflects upon these fantasies by observing that he is "definitely not gay".
In the season six episode, "The Tangible Affection Proof", Raj and Stuart, put together a party at the store for lonely single people on Valentine's Day. After giving a speech about how one cannot define themselves by being in a relationship, he is approached by a woman named Lucy (Kate Micucci). They both leave to get a cup of coffee, with Raj hypocritically declaring "Later, losers!" 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 message each other instead of speaking, in light of her social anxiety and his selective mutism. They continue to date and by "The Love Spell Potential" they kiss. 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 does not 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 text messages him at the party saying she will not be there and does not want to see him again. The next day, Penny goes to comfort a heartbroken Raj, who thinks he is completely unlovable. Penny suggests that this lament is attributed to alcohol, but Raj says he that heas not had a drink since the night before: he is finally cured of his selective mutism.
In season 7, Raj's newfound ability to speak to women allows him to put aside his previous difficulties with them, and though he does not date, he manages to charm several women throughout the series, including the divorced HR representative Mrs. Davis, and a veterinarian named Yvette. Eventually, he begins dating Emily Sweeney (Laura Spencer), an attractive but rather sinister young dermatologist he met on the Internet. Their initial interaction does not go well, when she finds Raj's shyness and passivity off-putting, but she eventually agrees to go on a date with him: it goes well and the two begin dating properly for the rest of the season, becoming exclusive in the final two episodes.
Creation and casting
Raj did not appear in the original, unaired series pilot, which only featured Leonard, Sheldon, and a different version of the Penny character, called Katie. The test audiences reacted negatively to Katie, but they 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".
Raj'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". When doing scenes in which Raj must consume alcohol in order to speak, Nayyar would drink non-alcoholic substitutes. When scenes called for Raj to drink grasshoppers, the substitute was a concoction of water, cream and a heavy amount of green food coloring.
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- Nayyar, Kunal (September 15, 2015). Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven't Told You, Atria Books, pp. 201-202.