Mohnish Bahl made his acting debut in Bollywood with Sanjay Dutt's 1983 film Bekaraar. After a string of flop films, it was Salman Khan-Bhagyashree's film Maine Pyaar Kiya which changed things around for him. The actor essayed the role of the main antagonist, Jeevan. In fact, one of his dialogues from Maine Pyaar Kiya, "Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahin ho sakte," became highly popular after the film's release.
In a recent interview with ETimes, Mohnish Bahl opened up about how he bagged Maine Pyaar Kiya, and how it turned out to be a new lease of life for his Bollywood career.
Speaking about how he thought his career was finished after delivering six flops before he bagged Maine Pyaar Kiya, Mohnish said, "By the time I got Maine Pyar Kiya, not only had I started my career but also ended it. I thought I was finished after six flops and decided to become a pilot. I was working on getting a commercial flying license as I wanted to get a job in the aviation sector."
The actor revealed that it was Salman Khan who recommmended his name to Sooraj Barjatya for Maine Pyaar Kiya.
"Salman Khan and I bumped into each other quite randomly but became friends almost immediately. He was trying to get into the business of filmmaking back then. When 'MPK' came his way, he recommended my name for the villain's role. He asked me if I'd be interested in doing the role, and I agreed. It was tricky for me to do a villain's role back then as I was a flop hero. But any inclination that I had to play a hero was over by then. So I took it on but had never expected that it would be a new lease of life for my career and make me viable even 30 years later. I don't think even Salman had thought about it," Bahl told ETimes.
Speaking about how he bagged the film after audition, the actor said, "When I agreed to do the role, Salman said, " Jaake audition kar le". I was down and out in those days as six films featuring me as a hero had flopped; I'd had no work for two-and-half years. Besides, I was 24 and insecure as I didn't know where I was headed in life. You can't just be a rich parents' kid and live off their money. And it is not just about income, your self-worth also gets damaged badly in the process. I told my mom about my plans to take up the negative character and since she shared a warm relationship with the Barjatyas, she called Raj Babuji (late film producer Raj Kumar Barjatya) and told him about my plans. Interestingly, it was Soorajji (Barjatya) himself who took my audition and he gave me lines that would go on to achieve cult status: " Ladka ladki kabhi dost nahi hote".
"But after the test, Raj Babuji came up to me and said, "We'd like to cast you in this role, but aap Nutanji ke bete hain aur hum unko kya bolenge about casting you in a villain's role?" I assured them that I had her blessings, but he was still apprehensive. I went back and told my mother that I should be getting films because of her and not losing them! It was only years after my mother's demise, while shooting for Hum Aapke Hai Koun..! (1994), that I learned from Raj Babuji that my mom had called and spoken to him about the incident," the Sanjeevani actor told ETimes.
Elaborating on his late mother Nutan's conversation with Raj Kumar Barjatya, Mohnish revealed, "When we were shooting for Hum Aapke Hai Koun..! at Mehboob Studios, Raj Babuji asked me if I recalled the time they were hesitant to sign me for 'MPK'. I did because I had almost lost the film. He went on to relay how my mother had called him up to tell him to not punish her son for being her son. It hit me hard; it still does. A person like her, who has achieved so much and was such a wonderful soul, felt she was the cause of something that should have been positive. Raj Babuji promised to someday offer her son a leading role and that's how 'Hum Aapke...' happened. He not only kept the promise in one film but also in Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999)."
After Maine Pyaar Kiya, Mohnish collaborated with the Barjatyas on many films like Hum Aapke Hai Koun..!, Hum Saath Saath Hai among others. On being asked about being their blue-eyed boy, Mohnish told ETimes, "Over the years I have become Rajshri's old man also, which is wonderful because we all have to go that way. It's nice that all of us have been able to age and still have that camaraderie and sense of belonging. They are wonderful people!"
Mohnish Bahl was last seen in Arjun Kapoor-Kriti Sanon's period drama Panipat which released in 2020.