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Bollywood Nerd

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"I'm an Indian American, Jon. We're all born with a certain level of graduate school medical training."

People from India portrayed as various forms of geeks and nerds, although almost always on the smart end.

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 as well as stereotyped as doctors. 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.

This perception traces back to a 1965 U.S. immigration law that preferences education and skills in individuals who receive visas, and the fact that large-scale Indian immigration to the U.S. began afterward, so the people who founded the Indian American population were unusually well-educated. 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".

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 and Pakistan) were seen as tough and brave and were popular choices for sepoy troops, while Bengalis (from northeastern India and Bangladesh) 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 (Get this) Indians are pretty common over in India, so they don't have any trouble giving them diverse roles. Also, Tropes Are Flexible, so while people from the country of India are the most common examples, the trope can also apply to Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and occasionally even people from the smaller South Asian countries of Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan.

A subtrope of Asian and Nerdy. Compare Black and Nerdy, Jewish and Nerdy, and Geek.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dr. Rakshata Chawla from Code Geass, a Bunny Ears 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 HappinessCharge 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.
  • In Jewelpet Twinkle☆, Sara is the class genius and spends a lot of time inventing new magic spells. According to a piece of All There in the Manual info, she's of mixed Indian-Japanese heritage.
  • Luna Khan from Booty Royale: Never Go Down Without a Fight! is a high-ranking executive at an IT company. She also happens to be an incredibly graceful and skilled master of the ancient martial art kalaripayattu. Her computer skills aren't as prominent as her fighting skills anyway.

    Comic Books 
  • Level Up: Ipsha, one of Dennis's friends who is also studying gastroenterology. Apparently it's her family's tradition.
  • Ms. Marvel: Kamala Khan from Ms. Marvel (2014). 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.
  • The Outsiders: Salah Miandad/REMAC from Batman And The Outsiders 2007, who is probably Pakistani but fulfills this role as the tech expert and robotics engineer.
  • X-Men: Dr. Kavita Rao, 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.

    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, and 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. In a 2003 strip, Asok revealed that he attended the Indian Institute of Technology, which is consistently ranked as the best in India and which got some nice American publicity thanks to the comic - though while you have to be real smart to get through there, the real I.I.T. doesn't actually teach its students how to use psychic abilities.
  • Andy, a one-shot Curtis character spotted by The Comics Curmudgeon here.


    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, while Priya is not explicitly shown as particularly nerdy aside from being a bookworm, she is perceived by Ming as being at least bright enough to hold her own in a mathletes competition alongside Mei who is a straight-A student.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ben in Short Circuit was a computer scientist Indian guy (even though he was portrayed by a non-Indian actor, 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: Kumar was actively trying to defy this trope. Even though he was highly intelligent and had a natural talent for medicine, to the point where he was able to perform a surgery despite not having a medical license, he didn't want to be seen as a stereotypical Bollywood Nerd, so he dropped out of med school, sabotaged various med school interviews and spent his time getting stoned. Then he realised that being a doctor would actually be pretty cool.
  • In Mean Girls, the captain of the mathletes team is Kevin Gnapoor, who is incredibly competitive about the academic competition, as well as being a (bad) amateur rapper.
  • 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.
  • 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, British, and Italian descent), in the film The Social Network.
  • Arnau in Safety Not Guaranteed
  • The Danny Pudi vehicle The Tiger Hunter is about an Indian engineer who moves to Chicago to find work. He ends up living with 13 other Desi immigrants who are all unemployed engineers. While not stereotypical nerds, they are all skilled at engineering and are far more nerdy than the white engineers who dominate the protagonist's workforce, who are all bros mostly concerned with baseball and drinking.
  • Escape Room (2019): Danny is Indian and a dorky escape room enthusiast who the other cast members mock for his presumed lack of success with the opposite sex.

  • The entire family in Ananda's Fall, including a math professor grandpa, political science professor grandma, physicist mom, neurologist dad, and son who is clearly highly gifted.
  • Rahul from The Best at It, who's great at math and numbers though he wants to hide this part of himself to not appear as a "typical" Indian.
  • 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 (her boyfriend Dave is massively into a strangely familiar sci-fi series, and she just doesn't see the point). Also, she was the first recurring Doctor Who character of Asian descent, though Rani from the Whoniverse series The Sarah Jane Adventures, Toshiko from Torchwood, and Yaz in the main TV series have appeared subsequently.
  • How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life plays with this; Opal is Indian-American (born in India, lived in New Jersey since she was five), who has grown up aspiring to enter Harvard University and dedicating her entire life to achieving this. She has a 4.0 GPA, was her class' valedictorian and has won various academic awards. She's also very socially-awkward, unfashionable, knows little about popular culture, and has no real interests outside of studying. She believes women can be either smart or pretty, and has resigned herself to the former. When Opal is told by the Harvard admissions office that her lack of interesting traits outside of academia is hampering her acceptance, she becomes determined to shed her nerdiness and become 'cool'.
  • Doctor Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai (also known as Dr. Chandra) from 2010: Odyssey Two is a proto-Bollywood Nerd; he's Indian and a computer programmer, but he doesn't have the usual nerdy character traits because the trope hadn't crystallized in American media by 1982.
  • 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!)
  • 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."
  • A possible Ur-Example occurs in The "Fair Exchange" episode of Father Knows Best, starring Puerto Rican-American actress Rita Moreno as Indian college exchange student Chanthini Rajkamuri, with the Andersons learning about India, and Chanthini, who is learning about America from the Andersons while hoping to make a favorable impression. Bud is initially embarrassed when he has a ribbon bracelet tied on his wrist in honor of Raksha Bandhan, where a sister puts a bracelet on one she considers to be her brother (by association in this case). Jim hopes to take Chanthini to see an American football game while visiting the U.S.A., with Bud deciding to get her some perfume as a homewarming gift, and the rest of the family misinterprets Bud showing her around town as bringing her back to college, only to discover that Bud is helping her to get better acquainted with American football, and Chanthini feels more eager to see the football game now that she knows more about the sport.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Subverted by the Indian-American Tom on Parks and Recreation, who is 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.
  • Zigzagged 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • Ravi Ross in Jessie was adopted from India and is the smartest out of the kids. As the show went on, he also gained a number of stereotypical nerd traits, like a lack of strength and popularity.
  • Amita in NUMB3RS, who is of Indian descent and a computer genius.
  • Never Have I Ever:
    • The protagonist, Devi, is an awkward, unpopular, and overachieving high schooler of Tamil Indian descent who wants to go to Princeton. That California-based Indian-Americans are highly educated is part of the setting; in one episode, Devi speaks to a white college admissions counselor who tells her that smart Indian kids who could go to Ivy League schools are dime-a-dozen and she will have to do something that will make her stand out.
    • The specific stereotype of Indian guys being awkward and unattractive is challenged with both Prashant and Des. Both times Devi assumes that they'll be ugly and lame nerds upon learning they're in STEM (Prashant is an engineer and Des wants to be a marine biologist) and is taken aback when they turn out to be handsome and charming in addition to being intelligent.
  • Sense8: Though all the people in the main characters' psychic cluster bring their own skills to the table, Mumbai-based pharmacist Kala is the most scientifically inclined, being a chemistry whiz who can MacGuyver a bomb out of household supplies.
  • A.P. Bio: Sarika is, judging from her name, of Indian descent and is an Academic Alpha Bitch. Subverted with her mom, who, despite possessing the accent most commonly associated with the stereotype, is actually a lax party girl who is just as annoyed by her daughter's obsession with academics as everyone else is.

  • Invoked by Sindhu Vee on series 20 episode 5 of The Unbelievable Truth, when she makes an incorrect challenge because she didn't realize a three-figure number wasn't prime. She jokes that she's the only Indian who's bad at maths and her parents would be disappointed.

    Video Games 

    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 devisors in a Superhero School of about 600 kids.
    • Mrs. Metal (Tejal Choudhari), the metalworking and fabrication professor, and a Badass Driver known for creating 'speed courses' across the campus lawns.
    • Silver (Sakti Chandrasekhar) wants to be a mechanical engineer, and Kaiju (Sadhira Patel) is an electronics prodigy (from natural talent, not due to mutant powers). Unfortunately for them, their powers didn't cooperate; Silver's ability to produce Mithril meant she needed to study magic (if only to protect herself from those who would exploit her), while the side effects of Kaiju's manifested quasi-saurian PK shell is turning her into a Cute Monster Girl.
    • Pahelee (Revekah Chatterjee), the Devisor/Exemplar on 'Team Awesome!', the scourges of the school's powers testing faculty. As with her teammates (all of whom are under eleven), she is both exceptionally powerful and all too willing to throw hands with the older school bullies.

    Western Animation 
  • Hadji in Jonny Quest: In the original series at least, he always knew much more than Jonny. Given the time of the show's production, this was probably done to make his relationship to Jonny more interesting. In The Real Adventures, they made him the Mission Control computer expert.
    • Hilarious in Hindsight. Hadji was created long before India gained a reputation for this. Specifically, he's the lost prince of Bangalore, India's current tech hub.
  • Sally Bollywood, a 12-year old junior detective of Indian descent; whenever someone (usually a classmate) comes to them with a perplexing case, she and Doowee are ready to use their crime-solving skills to get to the heart of a mystery.
  • Sanjay and Craig: Vijay, Sanjay's father, a part-time inventor who runs a discount store, and is overjoyed when the titular duo want to take a trip to Vijay's ancestral land of India, even if it is mostly to see their hero Remington Tufflips shoot a movie on location. In the series finale, after accepting how his homeland has changed, he still treasures the family bonding moments he got to spend with his family.
  • Apu in The Simpsons is a computer science graduate, first in his class of seven million people. He originally went to the United States to study science under a student visa. In spite of his high intelligence, though, he works at a Kwik-E-Mart, and has eight children.note 
  • Isaac Sumdac from Transformers: Animated. The strange thing is that he apparently grew up on a farm in rural Michigan, yet still speaks with a Bombay accent. While the Detroit Indian expat community is one of the biggest in the world, it doesn't extend quite all the way to Bad Axe yet (Animated is set in the 22nd century).
  • Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb is a prepubescent Bollywood Nerd, and even gets his own Bollywood musical number about it in "The Unfair Science Fair".
  • Downplayed on Total Drama. Word of God says that Noah is Indian, but he's Ambiguously Brown without any of the usual stereotypical cues. While something of an Insufferable Genius, he's also Brilliant, but Lazy and more prone to sarcastic quips than typical nerdy clich├ęs.
    • Dave from Pahkitew Island qualifies as well. He's pretty much an uptight nerd who's apparently Indian and serves as the voice of reason for his team.
  • Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race gives us Ellody. She's confirmed by Word of God to be Indian, and she's a highly intelligent university student who wears Nerd Glasses, knows a lot about science, speaks in Spock Speak, and is so concerned with planning out everything that it ends up being her greatest flaw.
  • Scaredy Bat from Ruby Gloom has the accent and mannerisms down, despite being well, a Bat.
  • Downplayed with Connie Maheswaran on Steven Universe, who doesn't fit too many nerd tropes despite her intelligence. Even though she does display several "geeky" qualities towards anime and books, as well as practicing the violin and playing tennis, she soon becomes a skilled sword fighter and Steven's love interest. Her mother's a doctor, too!
  • Subverted with Dr. Vindaloo from Courage the Cowardly Dog, an incompetent "M.D. Quack" with a tendency to mistake blatantly obvious problems for diseases they clearly aren't.
  • Slav from Voltron: Legendary Defender qualifies as an alien equivalent, with his exaggerated Indian accent. Albeit, he's a downplayed example, as he mostly fits into the "intelligent" category, being a super-genius inventor in spite of all his quirks.
  • Dr. Bellum from Carmen Sandiego, V.I.L.E.'s top scientist.
  • The Magic School Bus gives us Jyoti. An Indian girl who's the new kid in the class and a technology expert.

Alternative Title(s): Indian And Nerdy