Manisha was born in the Nepali Koirala family on August 16, 1970. Her dad, B.P. Koirala, was Nepal's Prime Minister before her birth, while two of her paternal grandfather's brothers, Girja Prasad Koirala, and M.P. Koirala were also Nepali Prime Ministers during the 1990s.
Manisha grew up with her paternal grandmother in Varanasi, India. She studied in Vasant Kanya Mahavidhyalay. Then she re-located to New Delhi and was enrolled in Army Public School. After completing her school, Manisha had planned to study medicine and become a doctor.
Instead of becoming a doctor, fate led her to modeling, and then onto the tinsel screen in Nepal in a 1989 movie 'Pheri Betaula'. She then re-located to Bombay and debuted in a Bollywood movie titled 'First Love Letter' which was released in 1991.
Manisha has won five awards for her performance in 'Bombay', 'Khamoshi: The Musical'(two awards), 'Company', and 'Escape from Taliban'.
She has obtained a Diploma in Film Making from New York, U.S.A., and is a member of the Independent Film-Makers Society. She is also the goodwill ambassador on U.N.F.P.A.. She is actively involved in bettering the status of women, women's rights, prevention of violence against women, as well as in the active prevention human trafficking, especially Nepali women, who are abducted and sold as prostitutes. She is well versed in the Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dance forms.
Manisha is engaged to Christpin Conroy, the Australian ambassador to Nepal
Manisha Koirala made her debut as an actress in a Nepali movie Pheri Bhetaula (1989). Her debut in Bollywood was with the hit Saudagar (1991) about two lovers caught in a family feud. Her role as Rajjo opposite Anil Kapoor in 1942: A Love Story (1994) was again a critical and commercial success.
In 1995, she won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance for her role in Bombay (1995). She played a Muslim woman who marries a Hindu man and they get caught in the communal riots in Mumbai. In Akele Hum Akele Tum(1995) she played a woman who is forced to choose between her husband and her career.
She was seen with Nana Patekar in Agni Sakshi and Khamoshi: A Musical in 1996. Sanjay Leela Bhansali?s Khamoshi: A Musical saw her as Annie, a girl whose parents are deaf mute. She won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance. Gupt: The Hidden Truth (1997) was another hit in which she acted with Bobby Deol and Kajol. She played a terrorist opposite shah Rukh Khan in Mani Rathnam?s Dil Se (1998).
Grahan (2001) saw her as a rape victim. While the movie failed, Lajja (2001) won a lot of praise. Her role in Ram Gopal Varma?s Company (2002) won her the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance.
Her release in 2002, Ek Choti Si Love Story got caught up in a lot of controversy as Manisha Koirala accused the director of using a body double without her permission. She continued to experiment as an actress and was seen in Escape from Taliban (2003) which was based on a true story.
After studying film making in New York, she directed the movie Paisa Vasool (2004) in which she starred along with Sushmita Sen. The movie had an average run. She did not have any major hits. Some of her movies were Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story (2005), Anwar (2007), Sirf (2008) and Khela (2008).
In 2009, she has appeared in Partho Ghosh?s Ek Second Jo Zindagi Badal De with Jackie Shroff and Farah Khan?s Happy New Year.