- Had little success early on in her career, merely featuring in commercials and music videos, whilst appearing in the sitcom Hum Paanch (1995).
- Made her film debut in Bhalo Theko (2003).
- Next she made her Hindi debut in Parineeta (2005), for which she won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut and a nomination for the Filmfare Best Actress Award.
- Won both the Filmfare Best Actress and the National Film Best Actress awards for her performance in The Dirty Picture (2012).
- Awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian government in 2014 for her contributions to Indian cinema.
- Received an Honorary Doctorate from Rai University, Ahmedabad on 2nd June 2015.
- Rai University has named a scholarship programme after her and has been given the responsibility to nominate a girl student every year for the same.
- Debuted in Marathi films with Ekk Albela (2016).
- Brand ambassador of the ambitious Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan.