Bollywood Nerd
What a typical Bollywood nerd will look like.
People from India portrayed as various forms of geeks and nerds, although almost always on the smart end.

American media has very little to go by in terms of Indian stereotypes. While many Indians do speak English, this was under Imperial British rule. Americans know virtually nothing about them. One possibly apocryphal story relates Ronald Reagan being asked a question about the 1975–77 Indian Emergency and he mistakenly thought he was being asked about American Indians on US reservations.

So as far as Indian characters go, we really only know a few things: One, they have funny accents. Two, they drive cabs and run convenience stores. Yeah, those ain't gonna fly anymore. Three, Indians are so intelligent, they are the source of many white collar job outsourcings. So, obviously, all Indians must be geniuses. And therefore, nerds.

Note that the Bollywood Nerd is much less pronounced in nerdiness than other character types because of where the stereotype comes from — they're intelligent because they're stealing jobs from hard-working Americans. As is such, it doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense to show them as being lazy. Your typical Bollywood Nerd will be a scientist, doctor, or just plain normal guy who has an IQ of 153. In other words, what your mom wishes you were instead of wasting your time on this website.

According to the 2000 census Indian Americans have the highest educational qualifications of all national origin groups in the USA with about two thirds of Indian Americans having attained a Bachelor's degree or more. Around two fifths of all Indian Americans have a master's, doctorate or other professional degree, which is five times the national average. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Indian American men had "the highest year-round, full-time median earnings". So Truth in Television to a certain extent.

This trope is not as common in Great Britain, where a higher percentage of the population is of South Asian ancestry. However, it did exist to some extent in colonial India, where the British were fond of stereotyping the different ethnicities on the subcontinent. There were some exceptions, but in general Punjabis (from northwestern India) were seen as tough and brave and were popular choices for sepoy troops, while Bengalis (from northeastern India) were supposedly weak and cowardly intellectuals. In a nutshell, Punjabis = jocks, Bengalis = nerds. This was an egregiously odd racial profile to give them given that the sons of prominent Bengali warrior families constituted more than half the entire British East India Company's mercenary force - indeed, the move to reduce Bengali recruitment and diversify the force was a major contributing factor to the 1857 mercenary rebellion which resulted in the company's dissolution - but then again Racial Profiling is by definition neither a logically-consistent discipline nor one founded in reality.

Note that actual Bollywood films rarely use this character type. That's because Indians are pretty common over in India, so they don't have any trouble giving them diverse roles.

Compare Asian and Nerdy, Black and Nerdy, Hollywood Nerd, Jewish and Nerdy, and, of course, Nerd.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dr. Rakshata Chawla from Code Geass, a Bunny Ears Hot Scientist. Also, most of China's Knightmare Frames are implied to have been designed by Indian engineers.
  • Kaolla Su from Love Hina is a mechanical genius who hails from Molmol, a Pacific island kingdom that really resembles India (and everyone thought she was Indian before).
  • In Happiness Charge Pretty Cure, the Pretty Cure team from India has a technology and computer theme to their powers, and they are called the Wonderful Net Pretty Cure. They also both have glasses in their Cure forms, to add to the typical "brainy nerd" image.

    Comic Books 
  • Dr. Kavita Rao in X-Men, who first appeared after having developed a serum that could cure the Homo superior mutations, and later joined them as part of the X-Club, a think tank assembled by Beast in order to try and reverse the effects of the Decimation.
  • Salah from Batman and the Outsiders, who is probably Pakistani but fulfills this role as the tech expert and robotics engineer.
  • Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel. She's Pakistani rather than Indian, but she probably still counts. She is a huge superhero nerd, having intricate knowledge of her universe's superheroes, and she is a keen MMORPG player and fanfic writer. Downplayed, though, because, while she is fairly intelligent, her best friend Bruno (as well as his girlfriend, Mike) are smarter and fulfill the role of the Smart Guy in her solo series.

    Comic Strips 
  • Asok from Dilbert is so smart and his school is so good that they taught how to use psychic powers. Which the great Indian hierarchy may remove from him if he abuses them too much. The dullness of his job strains his ultra-powerful brain into near bouts of madness.
    • When he did break the rules with his powers in order to save the day, he was sentenced to go back to his cubicle at the office.
    • In Seven Years of Highly Defective People, Scott Adams admitted that he wrote Asok the way he did because he didn't think he could get away with making a minority as moronic as the rest of the cast.
    • Tiny, tiny bit of Truth in Television in this. Asok's intelligence and, more importantly, his psychic powers are more due to the fact that he attended an Indian Institute of Technology school, consistently ranked as the best in India. You gotta be real smart to get through there.
  • Andy, a one-shot Curtis character spotted by The Comics Curmudgeon here.


    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ben in Short Circuit was a computer scientist Indian guy (even though he was portrayed by Fisher Stevens). Lampshaded in one scene:
    Newton: Where are you from, anyway?
    Ben: Bakersfield, originally.
    Newton: No, I mean your ancestors.
    Ben: Oh, them. Pittsburgh.
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle attempted to avert this, but eventually ended up admitting that Indians just make good doctors for some reason. The straight use of this trope is seen in that Kumar comes off as far less nerdy than his Asian and Nerdy friend Harold (though they both smoke pot).
    • It wasn't so much that he was a good doctor by virtue of being Indian so much as by the end of the first film he (at least temporarily) decides that he should go to his medical school interview and take it seriously because he now appreciates his father more and wants to make him happy.
    • Kumar was actively trying to defy this trope. Even though he was highly intelligent and had a natural talent for medicine, he didn't want to be seen as a stereotypical Bollywood Nerd, so he dropped out of med school and spent his time getting stoned. Then he realised that being a doctor would actually be pretty cool.
  • In the live action movie adaptation of Street Fighter, Dhalsim works for Bison as a scientist, and is responsible for running (and ruining) his experiments.
    • Averted in the anime film, however; that version is just a generically wise holy warrior (which is accurate with Dhalsim's Martial Pacifist role in the games).
  • Dileep Rao seems to be the go-to guy to play this kind of role in Hollywood, as evidenced by his roles in Avatar and Inception. He's also one in real life, as he is a former winner on Jeopardy! prior to his acting career.
  • Jimi Mistry plays one in 2012.
  • Real-life Bollywood nerd Divya Narendra was portrayed by British actor Max Minghella (who is of Chinese and Italian descent), in the film The Social Network.
  • Arnau in Safety Not Guaranteed

  • Anji Kapoor, from the Doctor Who Expanded Universe. She's a futures trader and damn good at it, watches documentaries about economics for fun, and occasionally reads Jane Austen, although, like many examples of this trope, she's not actually geeky. Also, she was the first recurring Doctor Who character of Asian descent, though Rani from the Whoniverse series The Sarah Jane Adventures and Toshiko from Torchwood have appeared subsequently.
  • Doctor Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai (also known as Dr. Chandra) from 2010: Odyssey Two.
    • Averted in the film, however, where he's played by the white and Jewish Bob Balaban and is always referred to as Dr. Chandra instead of his full name.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians briefly mentions a "calculus whiz" named Raj Mandali, who got picked on a lot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dr. Mohinder Suresh from Heroes. Now, granted, he and his father were both college professors, so it makes sense for them to be smart. But like Asian and Nerdy Hiro, the implications of this are pretty difficult to ignore when he's pretty much the only Indian in the series.
    • And he's a cab driver. And so was his father (lampshaded in the series itself, where Mohinder warns his father that Indian academics who migrate to America end up driving cabs).
  • On The Daily Show, Aasif Mandvi once insisted that Jon Stewart introduce him as "Dr. Aasif Mandvi"; claiming: "I'm an Indian American, Jon. We're all born with a certain level of graduate school medical training."
    • In fact, as listed on the IMDB, Mandvi has played a doctor at least eleven times (though not usually particularly nerdy ones).
  • Rajesh "Raj" Koothrappali from The Big Bang Theory. At least he's surrounded by other nerds, but is often the Chew Toy of the group. On the other hand, women do seem to find him attractive. Too bad he can't talk to them - sober.
    • This changes in a later season though.
  • Subverted in season 8 of Scrubs with new intern Ed. He's smart, but is ridiculously lazy and trendy, but because he doesn't take being a doctor seriously he gets fired.
    • Every role played by Aziz Ansari seems to subvert this role. His character in Parks and Recreation, Tom, is also intelligent yet underachieving.
  • Jawaharlal on Head of the Class is a surprisingly early example. So early probably that the writers weren't so much deliberately associating India with intelligence so much as needing him to round out a Five-Token Band of kids who were all nerds anyway.
  • Averted by Lester Patel in Chuck. He knows enough about computers to scrape by working in the Buy More Nerd Herd, but when the only person below you on the Buy More totem pole is Jeff Barnes, you're not exactly a genius.
  • Mostly played straight but sometimes subverted by Kutner from House. He's a doctor whose interests include Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek, etc. Thirteen describes his apartment as "man-boy heaven". During high school, however, he was a bully.
  • Averted on the American version of The Office: Kelly Kapoor is portrayed as a bit of an airhead, far too excitable and into pop culture for her own good, even if she does seem to be fairly intelligent and good at her job.
  • Dr. Mahesh Vijayaraghavensatyanaryanamurthy aka "Bug" from Crossing Jordan
  • Ranjid from the German Sketch Comedy show Was guckst du?!.
    • More of a subversion - while being the best known (if not the only) fictional Indian on German TV, he's more of a dork, and not very bright.
  • Dr Nayak from Fringe. A rare villainous example. Okay, anti-villainous example.
  • Dr. Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project zigzags this in a rare female example. She's an OB/GYN who is very very good at her job, makes nerdy pop-culture references, and is implied to have gotten excellent grades in school. However, she also obsessed with shopping and fashion as well as celebrity culture, and is a bit boy-crazy.

    Video Games 
  • Pravin Lal of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was a talented enough doctor to be made chief medical officer on the colony ship sent to Alpha Centauri, and leads the UN Peacekeeping Forces on Planet.
  • The Backstory of the 'Bloody Bay' PVP zone in City of Heroes involves an Indian scientist, who named the Planet Eater creature approaching Earth 'Shiva', as the destroyer of worlds. The rest really only makes sense in context.
  • Although he isn't shown directly, the head Human researcher in Sword of the Stars has an Indian accent.
  • Overwatch has Symmetra, an Indian scientist who became a prodigy in the use of hard light constructs and several of her emotes or highlight intros are her doing dances based on mythological aspects.

    Web Originals 
  • Subverted with Zaboo of The Guild. He has the intelligence and computer savvy but not the work ethic.
  • Make, Overclock's Indian pal, in the Whateley Universe. The two of them are still just two more devisers in a Superhero School of about 600 kids.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Indian And Nerdy