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The Untold Truth Of Raj From The Big Bang Theory

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Few sitcoms have managed to reach the levels of popularity that "The Big Bang Theory" charted across its twelve seasons. The show takes a humorous look at the lives of four talented scientist friends obsessed with various aspects of geek culture. Their obsession with these interests leads to the foursome being less successful at attracting women until a waitress moves in across the hall and changes their lives. 

One of the most important characters in "The Big Bang Theory" across its entire run was Indian-American astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar). Smart, good-looking, rich, and sensitive, Raj nevertheless has no luck getting dates because of his debilitating condition of "selective mutism" which renders Raj unable to talk to women under normal circumstances.  

Over the course of the show Raj learns to slowly confront and deal with his condition and at long last overcome it. As his friends settle down around him with girlfriends and wives, Raj finds himself on an increasingly desperate quest to find someone to spend the rest of his life with, a quest that remains unfulfilled until the very end. With a rich character background and a complex story arc across the show, here are some lesser-known facts about the character of Raj that fans should know.

Raj is based on a real person

Raj Koothrappali is quite a unique character on the television landscape. Despite being from India, his cultural background rarely plays a major role in his story arcs, and he is usually treated like a regular geek as with the rest of the main guys on the show. In addition, Raj's condition of "selective mutism" renders him unable to talk to women is a pretty unusual malady for television.

As it turns out, the "mutism" part of Raj's personality was based on a real person instead of a past television character. Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj, explained the inspiration behind his character's condition to Page Six in 2010. "The character is based on a friend of [co-creator] Bill Prady's who had this pathological shyness," Nayyar stated. "He's since gotten married and had kids, so he's been cured of it."

Much like Prady's real-life friend, Raj also eventually learns to overcome his condition after experimenting with various confidence boosters like drugs and particularly alcohol. However, we never learn why exactly Raj developed this pathological inability to talk to women since, by all appearances, he had a close relationship with his mother and sister while growing up. 

Not from New Delhi

The character of Raj was created and written by American writers who seemingly have very little actual knowledge of India. There are many times when the parts of Raj's backstory relating to his Indian heritage don't make any sense. For instance, the fact that Raj claims to have grown up in New Delhi, which is in North India, but is unable to speak Hindi, is fairly odd. This would be like growing up in New York without speaking English.

Despite saying he is from New Delhi and watches Bollywood movies, both indicators of a guy from North India, Raj's last name is more common in South India. This might seem like a small detail, but the cultural differences between North and South India are vast, with both territories having different languages, food, film industries, and cultural milieu. So is Raj a North Indian or a South Indian?

Kunal Nayyar tried to clear up the issue once and for all during an interview. "He is an American-born studious south Indian," the actor told The Telegraph in 2008. This is not consistent with the scenes in "The Big Bang Theory" where Raj mentions he grew up in New Delhi, but at least now we know Nayyar did play the character as hailing from South India.

That is his real accent

As he is from a different country, one of the most prominent character traits of Raj Koothrapalli that frequently gets comments is his foreign accent. Raj sports a noticeable Indian accent that can on occasion attract women based on its foreign quality, or be the object of ridicule at the hands of his best friend Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg).

With issues around diversity and stereotyping minorities heating up within the entertainment industry, Kunal Nayyar's accent as Raj has come under a great deal of scrutiny. Some accuse Nayyar of deliberately sporting an exaggerated Indian accent for comical effect, something that the character of Apu from "The Simpsons" also generated controversy for.    

However, Nayyar insists that he did not put on a stereotypical accent to play Raj. So much so that he wrote an entire book entitled "Yes, My Accent is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven't Told You." "I've lost count of the number of times I've had to tell people that my pure Delhi, St Columba's School accent is the real deal," Nayyar explained to The Times of India while promoting his book. "[Raj's accent is] not something I consciously practice to sound more 'Indian' or make fun of Indian accents."

Not a consistent condition

The thing to remember about sitcoms is they are rarely planned out fully from start to finish. Usually, the creators start with a loose premise and keep building on it, adding or taking away new things as more seasons of the show get made. This can lead to inconsistencies in "The Big Bang Theory" relating to Raj's condition of selective mutism. 

It is established early on that Raj is completely unable to talk if there is a woman near him. After some time, this condition got modified to make it so Raj could speak to women if he had gotten extremely drunk. However, this rule is not adhered to at all times. In the Season 1 episode "The Dumpling Paradox," we see Raj talking freely in front of Penny during "Halo" night without the help of a drink. 

Then there was the time when Raj was up for an interview in front of an attractive woman. He managed to take a sip of alcohol before the interview instead of the large amounts he usually needs to get over his selective mutism, and was able to converse freely with the woman. An in-universe explanation for these inconsistencies could be that Raj's condition is psychological rather than physical, and he can talk to women without drinking if he is feeling sufficiently confident, whether by becoming engrossed in playing "Halo" or taking a mere sip of alcohol.

Raj has a signature look

The main male characters in "The Big Bang Theory" are far from fashionable. A running joke on the show is that the guys are far more interested in cosplay and dressing up as fictional characters than buying trendy new clothes or prioritizing fashion over comfort. Due to this, they have a tendency to stick to what they know when it comes to clothing.  

The character of Raj is generally acknowledged to be the most fashion-conscious of the main foursome. His style of clothing tends to lean towards sweater vests worn over a shirt accompanied by some sort of outerwear. The fact that Raj needs to be dressed snugly at all times might be due to his Indian heritage. Since Raj grew up in the much warmer country of India, he would feel the cold much more sharply when compared to Howard, Leonard, or Sheldon. 

Other than the usual sweater vest look, Raj has found occasion to wear business suits, exercise clothing, and more than one cosplay costume. The most famous of these was the time Raj dressed up as Aquaman in the Season 4 episode "The Justice League Recombination." It has become such an iconic look from the show that it was made available as a Funko Pop figure, despite the fact that Raj personally hated the costume. 

Playing Raj fulfilled a childhood fantasy

Television shows have long been a source of first crushes for both male and female viewers who grow up watching a series during adolescence. The show "The Wonder Years" was one source of many crushes between its two leads, Fred Savage and Danica McKellar. The role of Winnie Cooper, as played by McKellar, was right up there with Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) for kids growing up in the '80s and '90s as a first crush.

Kunal Nayyar was one such guy who grew up nursing a hopeless crush on Winnie Cooper. In a moment out of a storybook, Nayyar's dream of making out with Winnie actually came true when McKellar guest-starred on "The Big Bang Theory" in the Season 3 episode "The Psychic Vortex." The actress plays Abby, a Caltech researcher whom Raj manages to bring back home and makes out with.

Nayyar was so overwhelmed by the incident that he wrote an article recounting his experience watching McKellar on the television screen as a kid and acting in a romantic scene with her as an adult for The Telegraph. "I was going to get to kiss Winnie Cooper," Nayyar writes about rifling feverishly through the script for the episode to see how his character interacts with Abby, adding, "This meant only one thing: God is real." Most guys of Nayyar's age can relate to that sentiment.

The auditions to find Raj

Today it would be unthinkable to imagine anyone other than Kunal Nayyar playing Raj Koothrappali on "The Big Bang Theory." However, that casting choice was not always a foregone conclusion. When the show was still being developed Nayyar was an unknown actor up against many other candidates for a role that was not yet specifically written for an Indian-American. 

"When they were rounding out the cast of Big Bang when I was auditioning, at that time the character was called Dave," Nayyar explained to Metro UK. "[Dave] was supposed to be a first generation American." The makers of the show were looking to add some diversity to the cast, but they were not thinking committed to a particular ethnicity to add to the mix, so actors from all sorts of cultural backgrounds were up for the part. 

"I was auditioning against Koreans, Japanese, Pakistanis, Chinese," Nayyar continues to explain. "They were really trying to fill out the diverse characters into this show." Fortunately, the qualities that the actor brought to the role in his audition appealed to the makers of "The Big Bang Theory." As such, the character of Dave became Raj and Nayyar's professional career got the boost of a lifetime. 

When Raj was missing from the group

Science-centric shows like "The Big Bang Theory" are very fond of talking about the "multiverse," which is the idea that there exists an infinite number of parallel realities which are all slightly different from each other. Intriguingly, one such parallel reality exists for "The Big Bang Theory" in the form of an unaired pilot of the series that would have taken a very different approach to the show.

That episode, snippets of which can be found on YouTube, might seem like an alien world for longtime fans of "The Big Bang Theory." In the unaired pilot, Penny is replaced by a girl named Katie, who meets Leonard and Sheldon by chance and turns their life upside down. While Leonard's characterization remains pretty much the same, Sheldon hides dirty magazines in his apartment and is attracted to Katie just like Leonard.  

Also, Raj and Howard are nowhere to be found. In their place we have Gilda, a fellow researcher working with Leonard and Sheldon who has a one-sided crush on Leonard. The unaired pilot has a darker, more cynical quality that is missing from the traditional version of the show. The makers of "The Big Bang Theory" decided to scrap this version of the pilot and start afresh by replacing Katie and Gilda with Penny, Raj, and Howard. The rest is history. 

Raj likes doing the same thing twice

One of the longest-running jokes on "The Big Bang Theory" is that the four main male characters are hopeless with women. While the rest of them eventually find partners and settle down, Raj has a much harder time finding a girl for himself. This is not due to a lack of trying, as Raj has quite an impressive dating record — despite being unable to talk to women sober.

Even with this rather deal-breaker of a handicap, or perhaps because of it, since he doesn't have to directly talk to them, Raj has dated two deaf girls during the run of the show. The most prominent one was Emily, whom Raj dated and fell desperately in love with in Season 5 until it became apparent that she was only dating Raj for his money. 

The second deaf girl Raj dates is never shown, but he mentions her in the Season 4 episode "The Desperation Emanation." Other than that, Raj has also dated two women named Emily, two redheads, two Indian-American women, and had huge crushes on two of his best friends' eventual wives. The guy seems to have a thing for playing the dating game in pairs of twos, which makes it all the more ironic that he ended up single by the end of the series.

When Raj's parents started breaking up

Parents don't play a very big role in "The Big Bang Theory," but they do pop up from time to time to interfere in their children's lives. However, none of them interferes more than Raj's parents from India, Dr. V. M. Koothrappali and his wife, despite the fact that they are on the other side of the planet and are usually only seen over Skype. 

Nosy and demanding, Raj's parents usually present a united front during their calls. That was why it was all the more surprising when the couple broke up in later seasons. While the divorce caught many fans unaware, it might be possible to pinpoint the exact moment the marriage started to fall apart. Up until the Season 5 episode "The Wiggly Finger Catalyst," Raj's parents seemed reasonably happy together. 

However, in that episode, Raj chooses his girlfriend over his parents' money, which prompts his father to laugh and say "You're an idiot. Love doesn't last!" This causes Raj's mother to glare at her husband, who retorts, "Well, he's going to find out eventually." After that moment of open hostility, Raj's parents grew increasingly bitter and sarcastic towards each other during their Skype calls, culminating finally in their divorce. 

Kunal Nayyar is happy Raj ended up alone

Despite focusing on a group of geeky scientists, at its core "The Big Bang Theory" is an exploration of the interplay between love and friendship through its main characters. The evolution of Penny and Leonard's relationship from friends to lovers to a married couple is the catalyst for the show and the reason behind the series-long development of all the other characters.

Despite the generous feast of romance where even someone like Sheldon Cooper eventually finds the girl of his dreams, the most hopeless romantic of the bunch, Raj, ends the series still very much alone. Some fans felt that Raj deserved his own version of a "happily ever after" instead of being the odd man out yet again. 

However, Kunal Nayyar believes Raj's ending has its own poignant beauty. "I find it quite poignant that the one character that believed in true love so much was the one who didn't, in the end, find it," the actor explained to Metro UK. "It's beautiful! It doesn't have to be so formulaic, that's what I loved about the show –- it doesn't have to be a certain way, you know?"

Why Raj needed to end up alone

While Nayyar has stated that he is satisfied with the way Raj ended up alone at the end of the series, fans of the character had a much harder time coming around to the idea. By the end of the series, Raj had seen a tremendous amount of personal growth, going from a shy, awkward guy who was too afraid to even talk to women to someone who ended up in many promising relationships. 

However, each of those promising relationships ended up fizzling out, leaving Raj out in the cold yet again, wishing desperately for the warm embrace of a loving girlfriend while his friends settled down and started families around him. According to the creators of "The Big Bang Theory," the fact that Raj ends up alone in the series finale is a tribute to the way the show started twelve seasons prior. 

"I think this show started with these four guys all single," showrunner Steve Molaro told The Hollywood Reporter. "To honor the bones of the series, it's OK that somebody still hasn't found the right person." Series co-creator Chuck Lorre added that "Raj's story just remains open" because it did not feel realistic to give closure to every main character on the show in the series finale. 

Sacrificing his personal life for Raj

When Kunal Nayyar first started playing Raj, no one knew "The Big Bang Theory" would become such a pop culture phenomenon or that Nayyar and the rest of the cast would still be playing their characters twelve years later. While the show brought a lot of money and fame to Nayyar and the rest, it also asked for a price in return. 

Namely, Nayyar had to stay in America for the major part of the show's run instead of visiting his family in India regularly. That price is something the actor regrets having to pay and intended to rectify after the end of the series. "People don't realize the sacrifice it takes to do an entire season," Nayyar told The Express. "And for me living away from my family in India, I had missed a lot of births and deaths and anniversaries." 

So, despite Raj's story being left very much open-ended by the series finale, Nayyar took a step back from the character that put him on the map to focus on other projects and his family, which may mean the story has ended for Rajesh Koothrappali. That is, unless the studio wants to take Nayyar on again for a possible spinoff focused on Raj.