The current study examined the perception and interpretation of asthma symptoms among practitioners using standardised audiovisual presentations of asthma. Two groups of practitioners (n = 70) in Chennai, India, were shown the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) video questionnaire and asked to describe the symptoms and signs they observed and to identify possible diagnoses for each presentation. The number of practitioners who correctly described the principal symptom(s) of asthma depicted in the five video sequences ranged from 26.1% for scene 5 (wheezing and dyspnoea), to 94.2% for scene 4 (nocturnal cough). The number who identified asthma as a possible cause of the presentations ranged from 17.4% for scene 4, to 67.1% for scene 2 (wheeze after exercise). Practitioners with postgraduate medical education were significantly more likely to identify asthma as a possible cause of the presentations, as were practitioners with postgraduate training in respiratory diseases. In conclusion, the perceptions of asthma and asthma symptoms among many physicians in Chennai, India, do not match the presentations of asthma depicted in the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) video. These differences may be limiting the diagnosis and apparent prevalence of asthma, and suggest the need for additional attention to asthma in the education and training of practitioners in India.