Bollywood runs in my veins: Kunal Nayyar

Kunal Nayyar on what he loves about cinema and why he decided to produce a cricket-based documentary

He's best known for his comic character Raj Koothrappali in the popular American sitcom The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), but Kunal Nayyar is fast growing out of the stereotype. About to make his big screen debut in a Salman Khan production titled Dr Cabbie, the LA-based actor of Indian origin turned producer as well with a cricket-based documentary titled Beyond All Boundaries. hitlist spoke to the cricket-crazy actor-producer to know more:

Although Kunal Nayyar was born in England, he grew up in New Delhi, before moving to the USA to pursue a film career
Although Kunal Nayyar was born in England, he grew up in New Delhi, before moving to the USA to pursue a film career 

Q. How much of a cricket fan are you?
A. I am obsessed with cricket. I played for school growing up, but was never really good enough to compete at a higher level. To be successful in cricket you have to dedicate your life to it. It is tough living in Los Angeles without my daily fix! I have willow cricket on my TV and laptop so I catch most of the big games, but I really missed the boat on IPL. That started after I left India so I feel a slight disconnect with it. I am still a huge fan of old school test cricket and one-dayers.

Q. How was the experience working with director Sushrut Jain?
A. When Sushrut reached out to me through some common friends it was because he wanted me to do the narration for this cricket documentary. He sent me a trailer of the film he had made from the footage he had captured in India. I loved it. I invited him to come over and show me the cut of the film he had at that point. My wife, Neha (Kapur, Miss India 2006) and I both watched it with him and we both loved it. I decided right then that I would do more than just narration, that I would help Sushrut finish this film and join him as a producer.

Q. What made you produce this documentary?
A. Cricket is one of the very few things that unites people in India from all corners of the country, who may otherwise be separated along lines of region, language, caste and class. And the 2011 World Cup of Cricket was a watershed moment in Indian cricket history: to win a World Cup in its most favored sport at home. It's something most Indians want to cherish and relive. And this amazing documentary allows them as well as me to do just that.

Q. Getting a commercial release for a documentary in India is a big deal given few documentaries get a Friday release. What do you think about this genre?
A. If there were ever a topic for a documentary that would speak strongly to Indian audiences it would be the topic of cricket. I think that if you make an entertaining and moving film, it doesn't matter what the genre is. At the Mumbai Film Festival last year, audiences gave standing ovations to this film and I think that's a great sign. I have high expectations to be honest.

Sushrut Jain and Kunal Nayyar
Sushrut Jain and Kunal Nayyar 

Q. Do you see yourself directing a film or a documentary anytime soon?
A. I am open to all kinds of creative ventures. If the right thing comes along and strikes my fancy, I can see myself pursuing it. Right now my focus is on being an actor and doing fun, interesting projects, be it in Hollywood or Indian cinema.

Q. Why do you think actors of Indian-origin tend to play non-Indian characters in American films/shows — your role in TBBT being an exception?
A. I'm not sure. I guess there are a lot of Indians who are into acting and film and television. We have a culture of cinema in our blood so maybe that's why it's easier to get Indians to act in different roles than it is to find someone from another part of the world.

Q. How familiar are you with Bollywood?
A. I'm a hardcore Delhiite. I grew up on cricket and Bollywood. Just like anybody who grew up in India, Bollywood runs in my veins. I keep up as much as I can with the current goings on and I would love to work in Bollywood.

Q. Can you share something about your work/experience in Dr Cabbie?
A. I loved the role I played in Dr Cabbie because it is the opposite of what I play on The Big Bang Theory. So it was a fun challenge as an actor. I made a lot of friends working on that film that I think, we'll remain lifelong pals. That part of my professional life means a lot to me.

Q. Do you visit India often?
A. I visit India every chance I get, at least twice a year.

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