The doctor from Oldham goes to Bollywood

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The Independent Culture

Dr Mahesh Kumar is something of a local hero as the head of radiology at Pennine Acute Trust, which runs hospitals in Oldham, Rochdale, Bury and north Manchester. But to achieve international fame he has had to try something different – he has become a singing, dancing, murdering gangster.

At least, he has for the purposes of a Bollywood movie. The thriller Accident premieres in London today, and will be released in America later this month, but it is already a smash hit in India. And that is partly thanks to Dr Kumar's decision to step away from the X-ray machines of his day job and head east in search of stardom.

The doctor temporarily traded in the radiology rooms of north-west England to travel to Bangalore last October, when his friend, Ramesh Aravind, a successful Indian film director, offered him the role out of the blue.

Dr Kumar, 43, said he jumped at the chance to prove his skills as an actor, which he first developed in amateur dramatics as a student in India.

"Some of my friends are involved in mainstream film production and they just said that the role would suit me, so did I want to do it? I couldn't resist it," he said. "I used my annual leave to film in Bangalore for 20 days at the end of last year and this included acting and voice dubbing. The director and crew were absolutely brilliant, and it's really exciting to see the film get released here."

In spite of his entry into the highly competitive and lucrative Indian film industry, he was not tempted to give up practising medicine.

"I'm not giving up my professional role just yet," he said. "Nothing would take me away from my clinical work, but this was a great thing to do. It's only a small role but I had a fantastic time."

Dr Kumar's character, Mahesh Longa, is a rogue who runs a nightclub and pirate DVD empire. The film tells the story of a disc jockey who becomes suspicious about the death of his girlfriend in an alleged accident, and begins to piece together the jigsaw of evidence which could lead him to a possible killer.

The film is the third release directed by Aravind, who was an acclaimed Bollywood actor before turning his attentions to directing. Accident, which is filmed in the Indian language, Kannada, will be released in selected cinemas across the country and shown with English subtitles.

Dr Kumar, a father of two, appeared in a series of inter-college stage shows as a student and even secured roles on television. But this is his first role in Indian cinema since he moved to Britain more than a decade ago.

He arrived at the Royal Oldham Hospital in 2000 after completing additional radiology training.

Dr Kumar, who is an active member of a theatre group in Cheshire, said he was keen to pursue other professional acting roles, alongside his role in the NHS.

"I've always been interested in creative art since stage plays at school. Acting gives me a real buzz and encourages me to think laterally. Everyone should have a hobby to help them cope with stress," he said. Since his performance, he has been approached about another two roles in Bollywood films.

Dr Kumar's success story follows the revelation that a north London dentist has secured a £1m record deal with SonyBMG. The dentist-cum-tenor, Andrew Bain, will release his operatic album of pop song covers in September.