Manohar Arjun Surve was born in 1944 in the village of Ranpar in the Kokan region, located in the Central Deccan Division of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, British Indian Empire. The village is now a part of Ratnagiri Taluk, Pawas Tal & Ratnagiri District, Maharashtra, India. Surve moved to Mumbai with his mother and stepfather in 1952. For years, he lived in different chawls in Elphinstone Road and Lower Parel. He was a BA graduate from Kirti College, achieving a high score of 78%. He then fell into street life, eventually forming a crew consisting of former classmates. During these years, he was introduced to his best friend and associate Sumesh Desai through his stepbrother Bhargav Dada. Dada was a feared criminal from Agar Bazar in Dadar. In 1969, Surve, Dada and associate Manya Podhkar were all charged in the homicide and gang assault of a man named Dandekar. The trio were soon caught by Police Inspector E. S. Dabholkar and sentenced to life imprisonment.