Born in London, Kunal Nayyar went on to study at Delhi’s famous St Columba’s School — the institution also had Shah Rukh Khan as a student. Then in 1999, he moved to the US to study finance. Little did he know then that later he would go on to become one of the most popular characters on American television.
The 32-year-old, who plays the role of Rajesh Koothrappali, aka Raj, on The Big Bang Theory, has not looked back since he took on the show. Happily married to Miss India 2006 Neha Kapur, the actor has now turned producer.
His documentary, Beyond All Boundaries, will be screened at the Mumbai Film Festival this month. Speaking to us over the phone from New York, USA, Kunal talks about his new role, working with Salman Khan and dealing with global fame.
Do you follow Indian television, especially saas-bahu dramas?
Unfortunately, I don’t watch them, but I see a lot of Bollywood films. The saas-bahu serials are widely popular, but they are not my cup of tea.
You’ve also just worked on a film produced by Salman Khan. Tell us more.
I finished shooting for Dr Cabbie this summer. I enjoyed working on it. When a name like Salman Khan is backing a film, it leaves you with an amazing feeling. I am anxious to see how it turns out.
Have you met him yet?
Yes, once. Salman is such a big star and he’s done such amazing things for our industry, but still, he is humble. It was a pleasure meeting him.
You’re now a global celebrity. Did you expect this?
I dreamt about it. As an actor, you always want to be successful and do things that inspire people. Playing Raj has been a once-in-a-life time opportunity. In this industry, one day you are up there and the next day everything might be taken away, so you should live in the moment and enjoy the ride.
Have you been offered Bollywood films yet?
Not yet. It’s a little difficult with my schedule right now, but at some point, I would love to come to India and do a film. If anyone’s reading this article and wants to hire me, give me a call (laughs).
How did you turn producer?
Initially, Sushrut (Jain; director) was looking for me to narrate the story. There was no talk of me producing it. But when I got his email telling me about the documentary, I was amazed. Since I’m a diehard cricket fan, I thought this made for a great opportunity for me to turn producer.
Is it a tough job?
It’s different being an actor and a producer. But it’s a great learning experience. As an actor, you are doing only what others want you to do, but as a producer, you’re on your own. And it is a really difficult job.
How has life changed post-marriage?
It’s wonderful. Neha is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Thanks to her, I can speak better Hindi now.
Tell us about these personal essays you’re writing for your book?
I had a crazy life. A lot of people don’t even know that I grew up in India and came from India. They think I am an American-born desi. So it would be fun to tell people about my upbringing. A lot has happened between those two worlds and that will be fun to share.
Isabel Kaif, Vinay Virmani and Kunal Nayyar (Photo courtesy: facebook.com/drcabbie)