indian cinema heritage foundation

Aditya Pancholi

  • Real Name: Nirmal Pancholi
  • Born: 12 September 1965 (..)
  • Parents: Aruna Pancholi and Rajan Pancholi
  • Spouse: Zarina Wahab
  • Children: Sooraj Pancholi, Sana Pancholi

Hindi film actor Aditya Pancholi is known for his leading, supporting and antagonist roles in films such as Kab Tak Chup Rahungi (1988), Zakhmi Zameen (1990), Maha-Sangram (1990), Yes Boss (1997), Aankhen (2002), Bodyguard (2011), and Bajirao Mastani (2015). Having acted in more than 100 films, mainly action dramas, he has also produced the romantic drama Chor Aur Chand (1993). Considered one of the best-looking actors in the industry in his prime, he has also been embroiled in several controversies. He has been married to actress Zarina Wahab since 1986. 

Born on 12 September 1965 in Bombay to mother Aruna and father Rajan Pancholi, he hailed from a film family. His paternal uncle Dalsukh M Pancholi was a well-known filmmaker and distributor, who launched Pancholi Art Pictures, the largest film studio in Lahore, which gave a break to stars such as Prithviraj Kapoor and Pran. Originally named Nirmal Pancholi, he schooled at St Joseph’s, Juhu, Bombay. 

He started off as an actor in television video films produced by Hiba, owned by Nari Hira, the well-known owner-publisher of magazines such as Stardust, Society and Savvy. His early films in this category include the actioner Shahadat (1986), Kalank Ka Tika (1986), Sone Ka Pinjra (1986), Shingora (1986), Abhishek (1987), and Khatarnak Irade (1987). 

Venturing into mainstream Hindi cinema, he acted in Sasti Dulhan Mahenga Dulha (1986), a drama film directed by Bhappi Sonie. He came to attention in Feroz Khan’s Dayavan (1988), starring Vinod Khanna and Madhuri Dixit, playing an assistant commissioner of police in the action crime drama that told the story of a benevolent gangster who dedicates his life to helping the less fortunate. The same year, he was part of the mystery thriller Dharamyudh (1988), starring Sunil Dutt, Shatrughan Sinha and Kimi Katkar. His first film as the male lead also came in the same year – K C Bokadia’s Kab Tak Chup Rahungi (1988) in which he starred opposite Amala. Directed by T Prakash Rao, the film was appreciated particularly for its music scored by Bappi Lahiri

The crime drama Qatil (1988) also featured him in the lead role opposite Sangeeta Bijlani. Directed by Ashok Gaekwad, the film saw Pancholi play Kumar S Sinha, whose father is a public prosecutor and a strong advocate of the death penalty. A staunch opposer of his father's views, Kumar implicates himself in a murder case to teach his father a lesson but ends up in a trap himself. 

The following year, he played the romantic lead opposite Meenakshi Seshadri in the family drama Mohabat Ka Paigham (1989), alongside Raj Babbar and Shammi Kapoor

The Mukul S Anand multi-starrer action film Maha-Sangram (1990) featured him in a key role in the action drama alongside an ensemble cast comprising Vinod Khanna, Govinda and Madhuri Dixit, among others. Playing a character named Suraj, he delivered a well-appreciated performance as the angry thakur, in a role that saw him stealing the show. The film brought him into the limelight and is regarded as his first commercially successful Hindi film. Pancholi also sang a few lines in the song Dhak dhak dhak with Alisha Chinai

The high-grossing action comedy film Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri (1990) saw him feature alongside Kader Khan, Jackie Shroff, and Farah in this Aziz Sejawal directorial. In Sailaab (1990), he starred opposite Madhuri Dixit in the suspense thriller directed by Deepak Balraj Vij. He played Krishna, who is suffering from memory loss and is being treated by Dr Sushma. They fall in love and get married; however, when Krishna gains his memory he tries to kill Dr Sushma. The same year, he also starred in a double role in Zakhmi Zameen (1990), opposite Jaya Prada

Helmed by veteran actor-director Dev Anand, the sports action film Awwal Number (1990) saw him play antagonist again. The plot revolved around Sunny (Aamir Khan), a new star who has been included in the team. However, he replaces another famous star Ronny (Pancholi). This sparks the desire in Ronny’s heart for revenge against Sunny. The story of the film also included a track about a terrorist who decides to plant a bomb in the field where a match is to be played between India and Australia. Pancholi had more releases in 1990 including Taqdeer Ka Tamasha in which he played inspector Suryapratap; Atishbaaz and Veeru Dada.

Pancholi went on to act in a slew of films including Ajit Dewani’s Naamcheen (1991) which saw him play Rajan, an unemployed young man who steps into the world of crime and his journey to redemption; the Sunny Deol-starrer Vishnu-Devaa (1991); Shiv Ram (1991) in which he played one of the two title roles alongside Jeetendra; the Mahesh Bhatt directorial Saathi (1991); the multi-starrer Akayla (1991) which also featured Amitabh Bachchan, Amrita Singh, Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Sheshadri; and the high-grossing Tahalka (1992) also featuring Dharmendra and Naseeruddin Shah

While he mainly acted in action dramas, he occasionally starred in romance genre films as well such as the 1992 Deepak Anand-directed love story Yaad Rakhegi Duniya, opposite debutant Rukhsar Rehman. He played a terminally ill man who falls in love with a girl, who also suffers from a terminal illness. 

His other prominent films in this period include the action film Muqabla (1993), Game (1993), the Sanjay Gupta-directorial Aatish: Feel the Fire (1994), Suraksha (1995), and Jung (1996).

From the year 1997 onwards, he mainly featured in supporting and antagonist roles. His performance as Sidharth Chaudhry in Aziz Mirza’s romantic comedy Yes Boss (1997) starring Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla, earned him a nomination for the Filmfare award for best performance in a negative role. He essayed a negative role again in the Saif Ali Khan-Kajol starrer, the reincarnation love triangle Hameshaa (1997) directed by Sanjay Gupta. He played the antagonist again in Baaghi (2000), followed by Musafir (2004) in which he essayed the main antagonist opposite Anil Kapoor. He was also cast as the antagonist in Striker (2010) for which he won the GIF award for best performance in a negative role. Other films he made an impact in, include Rush (2012), Hridayanath (2012), Mumbai Mirror (2013), Race 2 (2013), Jai Ho (2014), Dishkiyaoon (2014), Hero (2015) and Bajirao Mastani (2015) in which he played the character Pant Pratinidhi.

In 1993, he turned producer with the romance action drama Chor Aur Chaand.  Directed by Pavan Kaul, the plot revolved around a runaway bride and an ex-convict. Pancholi also essayed the lead role opposite Pooja Bhatt in the film.

On the personal front, he had met his future wife Zarina Wahab, who is six years his senior, during the filming of Hiba Films’ Kalank Ka Tika which released in 1986. They reportedly married within 15 days of meeting. Their marriage has weathered several storms, including his alleged anger issues. Speaking about the same, Wahab said in an interview, “His temper has become notorious. His minus point overshadows his plus points. But at heart he’s a child. He’s a clean-hearted person. Till date, I’ve never heard him gossip or badmouth anyone. I love that about him. He helps people without letting anyone know.”

Pancholi has been embroiled in several controversies including assaulting a business associate in a fit of rage in 2005, and raping his ex-girlfriend Pooja Bedi's 15-year-old maid during the time he and Bedi were dating. In 2019, actress Kangana Ranaut’s sister Rangoli Chandel filed an application before the Versova police station, alleging that her sister was exploited and abused by the actor at least a decade ago. Pancholi, in turn, filed a counter application in the same police station, claiming Ranaut’s lawyer threatened to file a rape case against him. Through several interviews in 2017, Ranaut had accused Pancholi of physically and sexually abusing her when she was new to the film industry. Pancholi later filed a defamation case against her.

Pancholi and Wahab have two children – son Sooraj Pancholi and daughter Sana. Sooraj, an actor, was acquitted in April 2023 of the suicide abetment charges in the death of his then-girlfriend actress Jiah Khan, who had been found dead in her home in 2013. Sana has studied films and acting in Los Angeles, USA. 


Filmfare, IMdB, Bollywood Shaadis, Hindustan Times, DNA