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Manisha Koirala (born 16 August 1970) is a Nepalese actress who mainly appears in Hindi films, though she has worked in several South Indian and Nepali films. Noted for her acting prowess, she is the recipient of several accolades, including four Filmfare Awards. [1][5][3] Although the box-office collections from her films have varied considerably, critics have noted that her niche as an actor remains unharmed irrespective of her commercial potency.[4] She is one of the most popular actresses of Indian Cinema and was one of the highest paid actresses in the 1990s. She has often been accredited as the 'most beautiful actress of her time'.[6]

Manisha Koirala
Manisha Koirala graces her film Dear Maya’s media meet (05).jpg
Koirala promoting Dear Maya in 2017
Born (1970-08-16) 16 August 1970 (age 48)[1][2][3][4]
Years active1989–2012, 2017–present
List of roles
Samrat Dahal
(m. 2010; div. 2012)
Parent(s)Sushma Koirala and Prakash Koirala
RelativesSee Koirala family
AwardsList of awards

Manisha was born into the politically prominent Koirala family, and several of her family members went on to become Prime Minister of Nepal, but she did not aspire to pursue a career in politics. A stint in modeling opened a career path in films, and she made her Bollywood debut with the top-grossing production Saudagar (1991). She went on to establish herself as one of the leading actresses with films such as Yalgaar (1992), 1942: A Love Story (1994), Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995), Agni Sakshi (1996), Gupt (1997), Kachche Dhaage (1999), Mann (1999), Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999), Chhupa Rustam (2001) and Ek Chhotisi Love Story (2002). Koirala gained particular recognition for her willingness to experiment with a variety of strong, dramatic roles, and she delivered several acclaimed performances in a range of films that did well with critics, including Bombay (1995), Khamoshi: The Musical (1996), Dil Se.. (1998), Mann (1999), Lajja (2001), Company (2002) and Escape from Taliban (2003). These films brought Koirala several awards and nominations, including three Filmfare Critics Awards for Best Actress, a South Filmfare Award for Best Actress, and a Star Screen Award Best Actress.

After 2003, Koirala began to work with independent film makers and ventured into art-house and parallel cinema as well as multiple regional films. During this time she was facing a decline in her career, due to the fact that most of her films failed to do well at the box office as they were mostly released without any notice or publicity, although her acting in some films was praised, such as Tulsi (2008), opposite Irrfan Khan. Her work in the Malyalam drama Elektra, the anthology film I Am (both 2010), and the romantic comedy Mappillai (2011) were well received. She took a break from acting in 2012 to return five years later with the coming-of-age woman-centric drama Dear Maya (2017), and was praised by the critics for her versatile performance. She was later seen in Netflix's Lust Stories and the Biographical film Sanju (both 2018).

Koirala is divorced from businessman Samrat Dahal. She was appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund in 1999 and 2015, and was involved in the relief works after the Nepal earthquake 2015. She promotes causes such as women's rights, prevention of violence against women, prevention of human trafficking and cancer awareness. Her off-screen life is a subject of substantial media coverage. Koirala was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and has been cancer-free since 2015.


Early life and backgroundEdit

Manisha Koirala was born into the politically prominent Brahmin Koirala family, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her father, Prakash Koirala, is a politician and a former minister of environment, while her mother, Sushma Koirala, is a homemaker. She has one brother, Siddharth Koirala, who is an actor.[7] Several members of her family went on to become politicians; her grandfather, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, was the Prime Minister of Nepal during the late 1950s to the early 1960s, as were two of her great-uncles, Girija Prasad Koirala and Matrika Prasad Koirala. Koirala spent her early life in India, and she stayed in Varanasi at her maternal grandmother's home for some years and later in Delhi and Mumbai. According to Koirala, her grandmother never let her feel that she is "away from home" and that she considers India as her "second home."

While staying at her grandmother's home in Varanasi, she attended the Vasant Kanya Mahavidyalaya until Class X. Aspiring to become a doctor, she moved to Delhi and studied at the Army Public School (APS) of the Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi campus. In an interview, she said that living on her own in Delhi helped her become "strong and independent."[8] In Delhi, Koirala took on a few modeling assignments, but later shifted her focus toward acting.[8] Determined to pursue a career in acting, Koirala moved to Mumbai for film roles. In 2004, she moved to New York City and earned a diploma in filmmaking from New York University. While living in New York, she became a member of an independent documentary filmmakers' society.[9][10][11]


Early debut (1991–1993)Edit

Her first film was Pheri Bhetaula (We Shall Meet Again), a Nepali movie released in early 1989. Her first Hindi movie was Subhash Ghai's Saudagar in 1991. She starred in a number of films during 1992–1993 that did not take her career forward.

Superstardom and public recognition (1994–1997)Edit

She starred in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's love saga 1942: A Love Story (1994) and Mani Ratnam's Tamil drama Bombay (1995).[12][13]

Her performance in the film Bombay was a milestone in her career which won her the Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actress and Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance.[14] She was seriously noticed by Bollywood after the release of 1942: A Love Story, a year before the release of Bombay. She also starred in Mansoor Khan's romantic musical Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995) as the ignored wife who leaves her husband and child to fulfill her singing talent and subsequently becomes a popular star. In 1996, she received positive reviews for her performance in the drama Agni Sakshi,[15] as a battered wife on the run from her mentally ill husband. The film became one of the biggest hits of that year at the Indian box office.[16] Later that year, she acted in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's directorial debut Khamoshi: The Musical, where she played the role of Annie, a caring daughter to deaf and mute parents.[17]

A critic from Channel 4 wrote: "Koirala... demonstrates the full range of her acting ability, rather than playing against it as she has had to do in more traditional films. The scene where she shouts at her father through the door, screaming and using sign language even though she knows he can neither see nor hear her, is extremely powerful."[18] Filmfare magazine later included her performance in the film on its "80 Iconic Performances" list.[19] In 1997, she played the leading role alongside Kajol and Bobby Deol in the thriller Gupt: The Hidden Truth, which was one of the biggest hits that year.[20]

Widespread success and established actress (1998–2003)Edit

She went on to collaborate once again with the acclaimed director Mani Ratnam, and starred in his film Dil Se.. (1998) opposite Shah Rukh Khan. Her role received similarly good reviews and earned her several award nominations including the Filmfare Best Actress Award nomination. Despite performing poorly at the box office in India, the film proved to be a hit overseas.[21] Some consider her most notable films of the 1990s to be 1942: A Love Story, Bombay, Khamoshi: The Musical and Dil Se.[22] With no godfather in Bollywood[clarification needed] and being a non-Indian, she reached the peak of her career during the 1990s.

In 1999, she starred in the successful Kuchhe Dhaage, which was followed by six more releases, the most notable of them being Indra Kumar's drama Mann. She played the role of a traffic accident victim in the film, which entered into the top five highest-grossing films of the year.[23] Her performance in the film won her favourable reviews. Film critic M. Ali Ikram wrote about her performance: "If there is a respite for Manisha's innumerable fans of late, this flick is it. We may not care about hits and flops, but it is painful to watch this acting virtuoso in the innumerable side roles she has been seen in of late. Indra Kumar's decision to cast Manisha here is a case of perfect casting, and she never lets him or the audience down. This lady is truly the Meena Kumari of her generation. It is great fun watching Manisha and Aamir Khan's perfect chemistry opposite one another. The film's climax has both stars permanently molding a spot for themselves in Bollywood history, and it will have you shedding tears by the bucketful." [24] The film was considered 'average' at the box office.

In 2000, she hosted the TV show Sawaal Dus Crore Ka on Zee TV alongside Anupam Kher. In 2001, she starred in the drama Grahan opposite Jackie Shroff. Her portrayal of a rape victim in the film who seeks justice was appreciated, but the film, which was a much-delayed project, was a major commercial failure. She next played the protagonist in Rajkumar Santoshi's drama Lajja, along with an ensemble cast that included Rekha, Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit. The film received a positive reception from critics, and so did Koirala's performance. Her last release of the year was Moksha, opposite Arjun Rampal, which was a failure at the box office.[citation needed]

In 2002, she starred opposite Ajay Devgan in Ram Gopal Verma's Company. The film was a critical success and she won her third Filmfare Critics' Best Actress Award. In that same year, she appeared in Ek Chotisi Love Story. The film, when released, generated tremendous response at the box office, becoming one of the few successes of the year.[25] The movie's release was stayed as she accused the director of the film, Shashilal Nair, of using her body double to shoot some love scenes in the film, and portraying her in bad light by shooting positions using another actress in her place, without her approval.[26] A court finally decided to stay the release of the film.[27]

After years of success, in 2003, she was seen in several low budget films, yet not less challenging roles. She ventured into strong woman-oriented films in 2003, such as Escape From Taliban, which won her the BFJA Award for Best Actress. She then played the protagonist in Market (2003), a film portraying the whole life story of a young prostitute. The film did decently at the box office and was considered 'average.'

Career fluctuations and decrease in workload (2004–2009)Edit

After receiving a diploma in filmmaking, she produced the small-budget caper-comedy Paisa Vasool (2004), in which she starred along with Sushmita Sen; this was probably the first ever chick-flick in Indian cinema in that it did not have a male lead nor a love story. Since then, she has played supporting and leading roles in various unsuccessful films, some of which have been well received by critics, such as the historical epic drama Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story (2005), the thriller Tum - A Dangerous Obsession (2005), and the horror film Anjaane – The Unknown (2005).[28]

In Anwar, she played a supporting role along with her brother Siddharth, her only release in 2007. In 2008, she made her comeback to films, with her first leading role since Mumbai Express (2005), in Tulsi, opposite Irrfan Khan. Although before its release, her comeback was described by the media as "shocking", and the film suffered from poor marketing,[29] her performance as Tulsi, a young homemaker diagnosed with leukemia, was well received. Taran Adarsh from IndiaFM wrote: "Manisha Koirala sinks her teeth in this role and delivers a fine performance."[30] She next starred in Sirf (2008). The film was released without any notice or publicity and was a critical and box office failure.[31] Her first Bengali film Khela, directed by Rituparno Ghosh, released the same year, along with the long delayed Hindi film Mehbooba; both films released on the same day.[32]

In December 2009, she served as a jury member in the fifth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival.[citation needed]

Critical acclaim and work in multiple South Indian films (2010-2012)Edit

Koirala promoting Bhoot Returns in 2012

In 2010, she made her foray into Malayalam cinema with Shyamaprasad's Elektra, a psycho-sensual drama based on Sophocles's ancient Greek tragic play Electra. She plays the antagonist in the film, which revolves around the concept of the Electra complex, which is a daughter's psychosexual competition with her mother for her father's affection.[33] The film premiered at the International Film Festival of India, where it was well received.[34] Later that year, she acted in Partho Ghosh's Ek Second... Jo Zindagi Badal De?. She also acted in her native Nepali-language film, Dharmaa, after a gap of 22 years since her first film.[35] In 2011 Koirala appeared in Mappillai, her first Tamil movie in five years. A remake of the 1989 film of the same name, the film saw her reprising the role originally played by Srividya. Her performance earned her a nomination at the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Tamil. The film was declared a hit. She was next seen in director Onir's critically acclaimed anthology film I Am, sharing the screen with Juhi Chawla. Noted film critic Taran Adarsh commented: "It's a delight to watch Juhi and Manisha, after a hiatus. Both deliver striking performances – even getting the language right."[36][37] Her next film was Deepti Naval's directorial debut Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Char Aane Ki Barish which premiered at the market section of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival to a positive response.[38] In 2012, she collaborated with director Ram Gopal Verma for his 3D horror film Bhoot Returns, a sequel to the 2003 hit Bhoot.[39]

Cancer crusader and comeback after sabbatical (2017–present)Edit

Koirala took a break from full-time acting in 2012 and returned to films with the drama Dear Maya (2017). Directed by Sunaina Bhatnagar and co-starring Madiha Imam, her role was of a middle-aged lonely woman who embarks on a journey to find love when she receives love letters. The film received mixed reviews from critics; however, Koirala was acclaimed for her performance.[40] Sweta Kaushal of Hindustan Times said: "Manisha Koirala shines like a diamond in a coal mine."[41] Suhani Singh from India Today noted that she is the "star in this mawkish coming-of-age story", while Stutee Ghosh of The Quint wrote that "Manisha Koirala’s grace makes it worth a watch."[42][43]

In 2018, Koirala was seen in Rajkumar Hirani's biographical drama Sanju, a biopic based on the life of actor Sanjay Dutt, in which she portrayed the role of Dutt's mother, legendary actress Nargis Dutt. Koirala also starred in the anthology film Lust Stories. The film, a sequel to the 2013 film Bombay Talkies, featured her in one of the segments directed by Dibakar Banerji.

She will next star in AR Rahman's romantic musical 99 Songs, and will also be seen in the Telugu remake of the political thriller Prasthanam, in which she will play Sanjay Dutt's wife. These are expected to release in 2019.

Personal lifeEdit

Koirala with her then husband Samrat Dahal at their wedding in 2010

On 19 June 2010, Koirala married Samrat Dahal, a Nepali businessman, in a traditional ceremony held in Kathmandu.[44] The couple spent their honeymoon in Finland.[45] They met through the online social networking website Facebook.[46] The couple divorced in 2012.[47]

On 29 November 2012, media news reported that Koirala had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.[48][49] She had no clue about the disease until she felt very weak, and went to a hospital in Kathmandu with her brother. She flew to India and was admitted to Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai.[50] She then flew to the US for treatment, however the exact ailment was not disclosed.[51]

On 10 December, she underwent surgery. The following day it was reported that the surgery had been successful.[52][53] She had to undergo chemotherapy and spent months at the hospital in New York. As of 2 May 2017, she had been cancer-free for four years.[54] After fighting cancer and winning the battle, she is actively involved in spreading awareness about the disease.[55][56]

Off-screen workEdit

Social serviceEdit

Manisha Koirala in a Nepali village as UNFPA Ambassador in 2015

In September 1999, Koirala was appointed as a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador.[9] She is actively involved in social work, specifically working with organisations to promote women's rights, prevention of violence against women, and also to prevent the human trafficking of Nepali girls for prostitution.[9]

In May 2013, after her cancer treatment, Koirala said she intends to use her celebrity status and personal story to inspire others who are battling the dreaded disease. "All I want to do from now onwards is to be useful to people who could need [a] little advice," she said in her first interview since undergoing cancer treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre.[57]

Koirala has advocated the need for an official Earth Anthem for the planet supporting the efforts of Indian poet-diplomat Abhay K in this direction.[58]

She was appointed as a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador in 2015 and was involved in the relief works after the Nepal earthquake 2015.[59][60]

Motivational speakerEdit

Manisha Koirala gives a motivational talk at a multinational company in 2016

She has turned into a Motivational speaker after her battle with cancer, and gives motivational talks on various topics at various schools, hospitals and organisations.[61][62][63]

She gave speeches in 2016 on "Transformation" at Mercedes-Benz India in Pune, and on "Importance of Being Mindful Living" at Cipla in Goa.

She was scheduled to speakon "Health is Our Responsibility" at Sneh Foundation in February 2017; on "Cancer is Conquerable" at Apollo Hospitals in Hyderabad; and on "My Life's Lesson" at Shiv Nadar Foundation in Chennai; on "Why Celebrities Need Coaching" in Delhi; on "Woman Empowerment" at National Women's Parliament in Vijayawada; and on "Gifts of Cancer" at TEDx Jaipur.

Selected filmographyEdit

Awards and honoursEdit


See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit