Featuring in initial lead roles, it was in character roles that actor Mohnish Bahl saw greater success. With his first major success being in a role with grey shades in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), he has played both positive and negative roles with grace and conviction. His versatility is demonstrated in his performances in films such as Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), Bol Radha Bol (1992), Platform (1993), Ek Hi Raasta (1993), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun? (1994), Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995), Hum Sath Sath Hain (1999), Jai Ho (2014), and Panipat (2019). Featuring in approximately 100 films in the course of his career, he has also won awards for his performances on television in serials like Sanjivani – A Medical Boon, and Devi.
Born on 14 August 1961 to renowned actress mother Nutan and Rajnish Bahl, a Lieutenant Commander, Mohnish Bahl made his debut with the film Bekarar (1983). He featured in a supporting role opposite Padmini Kolhapure, in the V B Rajendra Prasad directorial which co-starred Sanjay Dutt. The film did not succeed. His next release - Teri Bahon Mein (1984), also tanked at the box office. The film was a remake of the Hollywood hit The Blue Lagoon. It featured him in the lead opposite Ayesha Dutt, who later married Jackie Shroff. Success came with the Ramsay Brothers’ Purana Mandir (1984); the film was one of their most successful productions. However, as it was considered a B grade film, Bahl went on to be faced with similar offers which he was not keen to pursue. Believing that his career was finished after a few flops, he was planning to become a pilot. He had started working on getting his commercial flying license, as he planned to get a job in the aviation sector. However, things changed when he was recommended by his friend Salman Khan, the leading actor of Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), to audition for the role of villain for the film. Mohnish successfully cleared the audition. However, the makers took veteran actress and Mohnish’s mother Nutan’s consent before signing her son on for the villain’s role!
The film changed his trajectory. This romantic musical directed by Sooraj Barjatya in his directorial debut transformed Bahl's career. The film told the story of two individuals and their journey from friendship to love, and later how they fight family differences to be together. Bahl played Jeevan Sehni, a character with shades of grey, with assurance and conviction. Jeevan mocks Prem and Suman and later tries to kill Prem. Bahl’s portrayal of the cocky and arrogant Jeevan made a strong impact and paved his way in the film industry. His line from the film – “Ek larka-larki kabhi dost nahin hote” remains popular even decades later. There is even a reference to the line in Anurag Kashyap’s magnum opus Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012). Maine Pyar Kiya went on to become a huge hit with audiences and was touted as the highest-grossing release of 1989.
Known for his versatility, Mohnish went on to play both good and bad roles gracefully. He featured in several interesting character roles. Hum Saath-Saath Hain saw him play Vivek Chaturvedi, the ideal son of Ramkishan and Mamta, who is paralyzed in one hand. He loves his family dearly and they occupy the most important place in his life. However, Mamta’s friends turn her against Vivek, convincing her that as her stepson he should not be given his inheritance; his other brothers however oppose this decision. Bahl was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at Filmfare Awards for his performance.
The blockbuster family entertainer Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! saw Mohnish cast in the role of Rajesh Nath, nephew of Kailash Nath and brother of Prem Nath. Rajesh is happily married to Pooja. However, just after giving birth to their son, Pooja dies due to an accident. The family decides to marry Rajesh to Nisha, Pooja’s sister so that she can care for the newborn baby. But, unknown to everyone Nisha and Prem are in love with each other. Mohnish’s performance saw him nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Filmfare Awards.
In Shola Aur Shabnam, Mohnish played the role of Baali, which was well received in the film. Baali, brother of gangster Kali Baba, is an arrogant youngster who enlists in the National Cadet Corps and is smitten with Divya, who is in love with Karan, a fellow cadet of Baali. Bali despises Karan. His anger and jealousy lead him to plot against both.
Bol Radha Bol saw Mohnish playing the role of Bhanu, who is cheating his cousin Kishen in business. Ousted from his duties, Bhanu plots against Kishen as he helps Tony, a look-alike of Kishen, to infiltrate Kishen’s home when Kishen is away. The film was one of the highest grosser of the year.
Platform, which tells the tale of two brothers separated on a railway platform, saw Mohnish play the role of a drug addict goon, Hariya who kills the owner of a hotel where Raju’s elder brother Vikram works. Vikram is falsely accused of murder and is seized by the police. Hariya raises Raju but later turns against him.
Sabse Bada Khiladi showed Mohnish Bahl in the negative role of Amit, son of Amar Singh who is after the wealth of Jamna Das. In Ek Hi Raasta (1993) he played the role of army officer Vikram who is recruited by a terrorist to gather information. He goes on to kill an army officer and puts the blame on Karan, a fellow army officer. Jai Ho saw Bahl essaying the role of Minister Ashok Pradhan whose life is saved by a schoolgirl who is following the system of Jai Agnihotri where a person who gained help from someone is to help three other persons and tell all those three to help three more persons. He works with Jai to improve society. Among his most recent releases, the historical action drama Panipat saw Mohnish play the role of Nana Saheb Peshwa. The film narrated the events that occurred during the third battle of Panipat.
Other films he has featured in include Vivah (2006), LOC: Kargil (2003), Force (2011), Vaastav (1999), Aunty No. 1 (1998), Duplicate (1998), Raja Hindustani (1996), Kartavya (1995), Laadla (1994), Bol Radha Bol (1992), and Baaghi (1990).
Nominated for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, as well as for Hum Saath-Saath Hain: We Stand United, Bahl won the Best Actor Indian Television Academy Award for Sanjivani – A Medical Boon on Star Plus, and the Indian Telly Award for Best Actor in a Negative Role for Devi on Sony Entertainment Television both in 2002.
Enjoying a successful career in television, some of the serials he has featured in include Isi Bahane, Devi, Bachke Rehna Zara Sambhalke, Sanjivani – A Medical Boon, Arzoo Hai Tu, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Ek Ladki Anjaani Si, Kayamath, Dill Mill Gayye, Kasturi, Star Vivaah, Kuch Toh Log Kahenge, Savdhaan India (Host/ Presenter), and Hoshiyar… Sahi Waqt, Sahi Kadam.
Married to actress Ekta Sohini, who had made her film debut with Solah Satra (1990), the couple has two children - Pranutan Bahl and Krishaa Bahl. Pranutan made her debut in Hindi films, featuring in Notebook (2019), Helmet (2021), and Phir Hasenge: Vibhas (2020).