The TEDx talk, which garnered over 1.4 million views in two months, marks the reinvention of Koirala—once one of Bollywood’s most beloved stars—as not just a resurgent actor but also a motivational speaker and a champion for cancer awareness and prevention.
The 46-year-old actor was born into the prominent Koirala clan but chose to steer clear of politics and ventured into modeling and acting instead, making her Bollywood debut with the blockbuster Saudagar, in 1991. In the decade that followed, she would go on to star in many more critically-acclaimed roles including 1942: A Love Story, Akele Hum Akele Tum and Bombay, winning four prestigious Filmfare awards in the process.
By the turn of the millennium, however, her career was on the wane. Koirala at the time was also struggling on the personal front with an admittedly unhealthy lifestyle “that attracted the wrong company.” Then, in 2012, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer—a phase of her life the actress has described as the “depths of despair.”
Having spent a year in New York undergoing “traumatic chemotherapy,” and a long hiatus from her acting career, Koirala is now back in a new avatar—a powerful actor, a philanthropist and a motivational speaker. Her latest role in the Bollywood flick Dear Maya has been described as one of “heartbreaking integrity.” Dear Maya might have drawn mixed reviews from critics, but Koirala’s poignant portrayal of a lonesome, reclusive, middle-aged woman from Simla, has drawn praise from all quarters.
A review published in the Economic Times states: “Manisha Koirala plays the wilting flower with heartbreaking integrity. She is a feast for the senses. Dear God, don’t let Dear Maya drown in the din of the Baahubali, Baywatch and Wonder Woman.”
But beyond just essaying quality roles in select movies, Koirala has also become a sought-after motivational speaker and a champion for cancer prevention awareness. In the past year, she has delivered motivational talks at various multinational companies, schools and hospitals. She also was active in the post-earthquake humanitarian relief and remains involved in several other philanthropic causes, including the Bagmati Mega Clean-up Campaign.
Speaking about the actor’s second coming, veteran Nepali director Ujjwal Ghimire said, “Manisha has made a phenomenal comeback. Before, she inspired an entire generation of Nepali actors with her acting, but now she is inspiring the whole world with her life. Truly inspiring.” Koirala is currently working on a memoir with which she hopes to inspire other cancer patients and survivors.
— By Sanjit Bhakta Pradhananga