Dr Ali Irani, the famous physiotherapist who was associated with the Indian cricket team for a decade from 1987-’97 and worked with half the film industry including Shah Rukh Khan and Sanjay Dutt, will make his debut as an actor in Ganesh Acharya’s Angel, which releases this Friday. He plays himself and gives out the message that while physicists add years to a person’s life, a physiotherapist can add life to a person’s years.
Angel is the love story of a boy and a girl suffering from cerebral palsy. The choreographer-turned-director met Dr Irani at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital and sought his permission to visit his department and observe the patients who came in for treatment. One of his patients matched the character of his heroine and she regularly drew him back and eventually, one day, Acharya decided not to put up a set but shoot in a real hospital.
For Acharya those hospital visits were an eye-opener. “I was amazed that despite their paralysed bodies, these parents had normal desires and tried to find happiness in little things. I didn’t want people to sympathise with my heroine but to fall in love with her and realise that cerebral palsy is curable with physiotherapy,” he reasons.
Dr Irani agreed with him, pointing out that most hospitals, whether private, government or municipal have a physiotherapy department. But he was peeved by the fact that physiotherapists were often wrongly portrayed in Hindi films. So, when Acharya suggested that he play himself on screen and explain that with support, motivation and the right treatment, such patients can get better, he readily agreed. ‘It was just a day’s shooting and another day for dubbing. And since I was used to giving interviews during my stint with the India XI, facing the camera was not an ordeal,” says Dr Irani.