I’m proud to be myself: Kunal Nayyar

Kunal Nayyar, famous for playing Rajesh Koothrappali in The Big Bang Theory, has a quick chat with me about voice-acting in Trolls

I’ve always wondered if the Indianness of Kunal Nayyar’s accent is real. Yes, despite the actor publishing an autobiography titled, ‘Yes, My Accent is Real’. The doubts though were dispelled when he spoke his first words, “Good evening!”, which made me double-check that I was indeed talking to an actor from the West, and not an Indian friend. In Trolls, Kunal has given his inimitably Indian voice to a troll called Guy Diamond.

Interestingly, the role was reinterpreted as an Indian character following his inclusion. “I guess that is the perk of being on a big TV show watched by 22 million people. I am lucky that it puts me ahead in the line.” He is at pains to shoot down the oft-made assumption that voice-acting is simply about saying dialogues. “When the character sits down, you have to remember to grunt to indicate the effort. When the character runs, you have to remember to huff and puff.” He enjoys the process, and says it contributes to his evolution as an actor. “It reminds me to use more physicality, tap into external forces. It helps me put into practice the outside-in approach.” Outside-in is an acting process that advocates that the potrayal rely a lot on the external traits of a character.

Kunal, who has “always loved animation films”, is a big fan of the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Considering that the third sequel of the franchise was released this year, I tell him there’s a good chance he could work on a sequel. He laughs, and hopes it happens. Even though he’s a brand now, Kunal isn’t the type to try and manufacture his performance into standing out. “That takes you out of the moment. I like to have fun,” he says.

The character he plays in The Big Bang Theory, Rajesh Koothrappali, is an Indian who has healthy relationships with his Western counterparts, without really having to compromise on his identity and accent. Kunal says he’s like that too. “I understand the desire of NRIs to blend in. I really, really do. But the only way I can live with myself is if I am fiercely 1,000% myself at all times. I say, wear your identity on your sleeves. I didn’t decide to be an Indian in America. I’m just proud to be myself.”

This interview was written for The Hindu.  All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share it.

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