Born on 1 November 1943 in Khiwa Kalan village in Bathinda district of Pun jab, Shrimati Nirmal Rishi is an actress of long standing in the Punjabi theatre. She is a witness to the growth of Punjabi theatre, once viewed only as entertainment, into the meaningful art it is today, and has contributed to this development by dint of her work on the stage. Shrimati Nirmal received hands-on training in theatre in the mid-1 960s working with Harpal Tiwana and Neena Tiwana as they were struggling to create a niche for Punjabi theatre after their training at the National School of Drama. In this early phase of her career, Shrimati Nirmal Rishi toured Punjab intensively with the Tiwanas, presenting plays before new rural and urban audiences. A graduate of Rajasthan University, Jaipur (1966), she was at this time simultaneously working for a degree in physical education at the Punjabi University, Patiala. As a dedicate d physical education professional teaching at the Khalsa College for Women, Ludhiana, she trained her students in drama and the Punjabi folk dance Giddha, even as she gave them instruction in various sports .
Shrimati Nirmal Rishi has won acclaim for her performances in the new Punjabi drama as well as recreations of classics from the West . Her well-known plays include Dugdgi Payi Wajdi (1967), Garam Bazar (1978) and Long da Lishkara (1979) written by Harpal Tiwana; Chamkaur di Garri (1967) and Ram Lila (1978) written by Harcharan Singh; Kanak di Balli (1970) and Loha Kutt (1971) by Balwant Gargi; Diva Bale Sari Raat (1968), a translation of Lorca's Yerma ; Behrupia (1968) translated from Moliere's Scorpio; and Jin Sach Palle Hoye (1969) written by Gurdiyal Singh Phul. All were directed by her mentor Harpal Tiwana. Shrimati Rishi has also acted in some popular Punjabi films and television serials. She has established her own theatre group in Ludhiana, the Alive Artist Group, but remains deeply connected with the Tiwana company now run by Neena Tiwana.
For her contribution to theatre, Shrimati Nirmal Rishi has been honoured by several institutions such as the Punjab Art s Council, Chandigarh (1978), the Languages Department of the Government of Punjab (2000), and the Punjab Art Association, Toronto (2004). She received felicitations as an artist at the Bharat-Pakistan atak Festival in 2011.
Shrimati Nirmal Rishi receives the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for her contribution to Indian theatre as an actress.