Manisha Koirala is a Nepali-Indian actress who works in Indian films, as well as a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and social activist. Koirala has primarily worked in Hindi cinema, though she has appeared in several Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films as well. She is also an accomplished Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dancer.
Born to politician Prakash Koirala and Sushma Koirala in the politically prominent Koirala family of Nepal, she made her acting debut in the Nepali film Pheri Bhetaula (1989). A year later, Koirala made her Bollywood debut with the top-grossing drama Saudagar (1991). She went on to establish herself as one of the leading actresses in the 90s with such mainstream films as 1942: A Love Story (1994), Agni Sakshi (1996) and Gupt (1997).
Recognised for her acting prowess, Koirala was noted for her performances in films such as Bombay , Akele Hum Akele Tum (both 1995), Khamoshi: The Musical (1996), Dil Se.. (1998), and Company (2002). She has won the Filmfare Critics' Award thrice and has received four nominations for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress so far. Although box-office collections of her films have varied considerably, critics have noted that her niche as an actor remains unharmed irrespective of her commercial potent.
Her brother Siddharth Koirala is also an actor, and collaborated with her once in the film Anwar.
In 2004, she returned from New York after receiving a diploma in filmmaking. She became a member of an independent documentary filmmaker's society.
Her first Hindi movie was Subhash Ghai's Saudagar in 1991. The film proved to be a good beginning, as it was the biggest hit of the year. She starred in a number of unsuccessful films during 1992-1993 until Vidhu Vinod Chopra's love saga 1942: A Love Story (1994) and Mani Ratnam's Tamil drama Bombay (1995) came out. Her performance in the latter was particularly appreciated and won her the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance. She was also seen in more commercial films, such as Mansoor Khan's romantic musical Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995) opposite Aamir Khan. Her role of Kiran, an ignored wife who leaves her husband and child in order to fulfill her singing talent and subsequently becomes a popular star, earned her a Filmfare nomination for Best Actress.
Koirala had a particularly successful year in 1996. She received positive reviews for her performance in the drama Agni Sakshi, where she played the role of a battered wife on the run from her mentally ill husband, played by Nana Patekar. The film became one of the biggest hits of that year at the Indian box office. Later that year, she acted in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's directorial debut, Khamoshi: The Musical. The film saw her playing the role of Annie, a caring daughter to deaf parents. Her performance was highly acclaimed, and won her a second consecutive Filmfare Best Performance Award, as well as a Star Screen Award for Best Actress.
One year later in 1997, she played the leading role alongside Kajol and Bobby Deol in the thriller Gupt: The Hidden Truth. The film became one of the biggest hits of the year. She went on to collaborate once again with Mani Ratnam, and starred in his award-winning film Dil Se.. (1998) opposite Shahrukh 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.
Her later movies like Kaccha Dhaage, Moksha and Company also gave her critical acclaim. But her movie, Ek Chotisi Love Story, dragged her into controversy.
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 main protagonist in Market (2003), a film portraying the whole life story of a young prostitute. The film was a decent success at the box office.
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.
Overall, Koirala starred as the leading role in 6 high-budget, successful Tamil movies: Bombay (1994) co-starring Arvind Swamy, Indian (1996) co-starring Kamal Hassan, Mudhalvan (1999) co-starring Arjun, Aalavandhan (2001) co-starring Kamal Hassan, Baba (2002) co-starring Rajnikanth and Mumbai Express (2005) co-starring Kamal Hassan.
Since then, she has played supporting and leading roles in various unsuccessful films, some of which being 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 (2006).
In 2008, she made her comeback to films, with her first leading role since Mumbai Express (2005), in Tulsi, opposite Irrfan Khan.
In December 2009, she served as the Jury member in the fifth edition of Dubai International Film Festival.
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. The film premiered at the International Film Festival of India, where it was well received.
In 2011 Koirala appeared in Mappillai, her first Tamil movie in 5 years. A remake of the 1989 film of the same name, the film saw her reprising the role originally played by the late Srividya, her performance earned her a nomination in the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Tamil.
She was later seen in the critically acclaimed moivie I Am.... In 2012 she teamed up with Ramgopal Verma in Bhoot Returns.
In September 1999, Koirala was appointed as a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador. She is actively involved in social work, specifically working with organizations to promote women's rights, prevention of violence against women, and also to prevent the human trafficking of Nepali girls for prostitution.