Manisha Koirala's second coming

Manisha Koirala's second coming
PHOTO: The Kathmandu Post/Asia News Network

At one point in her recent TEDx talk delivered in Jaipur, actor Manisha Koirala gives out this sagacious advice: "We have a choice-we can either be consumed by our problems, become a victim and be defined by that problem, or we can turn it around into a platform for our growth. We can turn the worst situation into a narrative of triumph. The wisdom and courage is all within us already."

The TEDx talk, which garnered over 645,000 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 an inspiring figure for cancer awareness.

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, her two-year marriage with businessman Samrat Dahal ended abruptly and 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.

So much so, her latest role in the Sunaina Bhatnagar-directorial Dear Maya has been described as one of "heartbreaking integrity."

Dear Maya, which released on Friday, has 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."

The Hindustan Times, too, although not positive to the movie in itself, hails the actress's performance: "Manisha shines throughout. She appears as a recluse with a dagger dangling from her waist and morphs gradually into a confident woman in a red sari enjoying life. She makes the emotions come alive."

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.

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."

Now, Koirala will seek to pursue "meaningful roles" in select movies, while continuing to tour as a speaker.

She is slated to essay the role of legendary Nargis Dutt in the highly-anticipated biopic of legendary actor Sanjay Dutt later this year.

Dear Maya is yet to release in Nepal.

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