Asha Parekh was born on 2 October 1942 in Mumbai to a father from Paldi near Pirana, Ahmedabad, Gujarat and a Dawoodi Bohra Muslim mother. Parekh's religious upbringing involved worshipping Sai Baba. Her mother enrolled her in Indian classical dance classes at an early age and she learned from many teachers, including Pandit Bansilal Bharati.
Parekh started her career as a child artist under the screen name Baby Asha Parekh. Famed film director Bimal Roy saw her dance at a stage function and cast her at the age of ten in Maa (1952 film) and then repeated her in Baap Beti (1954). The latter film's failure disappointed her, and even though she did a few more child roles, she quit to resume her schooling. At sixteen she decided to try acting again, and to make her debut as a heroine, but she was rejected from Vijay Bhatt's Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) in favour of actress Ameeta, because the filmmaker claimed she was not star material. Precisely eight days later, film producer Subodh Mukherjee and writer-director Nasir Hussain cast her as the heroine in Dil Deke Dekho (1959) opposite Shammi Kapoor, which made her a huge star.
The film also led to a long and fruitful association with Hussain. He went on to cast Parekh as the heroine in six more of his films; Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Teesri Manzil (1966), Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) and Caravan (1971). She also did a cameo in his film Manzil Manzil (1984). Hussain also got her involved in distribution of films for 21 films, starting with Baharon Ke Sapne (1967). Parekh was primarily known as a glamour girl/excellent dancer/tomboy in most of her films, until director Raj Khosla gave her a serious image by casting her in tragedienne roles in three of her favourite films; Do Badan (1966), Chirag (1969) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978). Director Shakti Samanta gave her more dramatic roles in her other favourite films, Pagla Kahin Ka (1970) and Kati Patang (1970); the latter earned her the Filmfare Best Actress Award. Many important directors cast her in several of their films, including Vijay Anand and Mohan Segal. Parekh acted in her mother tongue by starring in three Gujarati films at the height of her fame in Hindi films, the first being Akhand Saubhagyavati (1963), which became a huge hit. She also acted in some Punjabi films, such as Kankan De Ohle (1971) opposite Dharmendra and Lambhardarni (1976) with Dara Singh, as well as the hit Kannada film Sharavegada Saradara (1989).
After her days as a leading lady ended, Parekh took on supporting roles as bhabhi (sister-in-law) and mother, but she called this the "awkward phase" of her career. So she stopped acting in films, and her friends recommended that she become a television director. She took their advice and became a television director in the early 1990s with the Gujarati serial Jyoti. She formed a production company, Akruti, and produced serials like Palash ke Phool, Baaje Payal, Kora Kagaz and a comedy, Dal Mein Kaala. She was the president of the Cine Artistes' Association from 1994 to 2000. Parekh was the first female chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board) of India. She held the post from 1998 to 2001 for which she received no salary, but plenty of controversy for censoring films and for not giving clearance to Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth. Later, she became the treasurer of the Cine and Television Artists Association (CINTAA) and was later elected as one of its office-bearers.
Asha stopped acting in 1995 to pursue directing and producing television serials. Parekh received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. She has continued to receive other Lifetime Achievement Awards: the Kalakar Award in 2004; the International Indian Film Academy Awards in 2006; the Pune International Film Festival Award in 2007; and the Ninth Annual Bollywood Award in Long Island, New York in 2007. She received the Living Legend Award from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
In 2008, she was a judge on the reality show Tyohaar Dhamaaka on the Indian entertainment channel 9X. In 2017, her autobiography (co-written by Khalid Mohammed) titled "The Hit Girl" was released.
Parekh has remained unmarried, claiming that her reputation of being unapproachable made people hesitate in asking for her hand in marriage. In her memoir "The Hit Girl", she confirmed rumors that she was romantically involved with her married director Nasir Hussain but out of respect for both their families, she couldn't marry him. Previously, Parekh would only state that she had a longtime boyfriend but declined to elaborate on the relationship, only stating that "it was nice while it lasted." She said she had not seen Nasir Hussain during the last year of his life, as he became reclusive because of his wife's death, but she did speak to him the day before he died in 2002.
Today, Parekh concentrates on her dance academy Kara Bhavan and the Asha Parekh Hospital in Santa Cruz, Mumbai, named in her honour because of her many humanitarian contributions.
Asha Parekh has acted in 90 films.Maa (1952 film)Aasmaan (1952) .... (as Baby Asha Parekh)Dhobi Doctor (1954)Baap Beti (1954)Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1954)Ayodhyapati (1956)Ustad (1957) .... Child ArtistAasha (1957) (as Asha)Dil Deke Dekho (1959) .... Neeta NarayanHum Hindustani (1960) .... SudhaGhunghat (1960 film) (1960) .... LaxmiJab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961) .... Nisha R. SinghGharana (1961 film) (1961) .... Usha GuptaChhaya (film) (1961) .... Sarita J. ChoudharyApna Banake Dekho (1962)Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963) .... MonaMeri Surat Teri Ankhen (1963) .... KavitaBin Badal Barsaat (1963) .... Sandhya GuptaBharosa (1963) .... GomtiAkhand Saubhagyavati (1963) .... UshaZiddi (1964) .... Asha SinghMere Sanam (1965) .... Neena MehraTeesri Manzil (1966) .... SunitaLove in Tokyo (1966) .... AshaDo Badan (1966) .... AshaAaye Din Bahar Ke (1966) .... KanchanUpkar (1967) .... KavitaBaharon Ke Sapne (1967) .... GeetaShikar (1968) .... KiranKahin Aur Chal (1968)....RajniKanyadaan (1968) .... RekhaSajan (1969) .... RajniPyar Ka Mausam (1969) .... Seema KumarMahal (1969) .... Roopa DeviChirag (1969) .... Asha ChibberAya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969) .... AartiPagla Kahin Ka (1970) .... Dr. Shalini ("Shalu")Naya Raasta (1970) .... ShalloKati Patang (1970) .... Madhavi ("Madhu")Kankan De Ole (Punjabi) (1970)Bhai-Bhai (1970) .... TaajAan Milo Sajna (1970) .... Varsha/DeepaliMera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) .... AnjuJwala (1971) (as Ashaparekh).... RanjanaJawan Mohabbat (1971) .... Komal MathurCaravan (1971) .... Sunita/SoniNadaan (1971) .... SeemaSamadhi (1972 film) (1972) .... ChampaRakhi Aur Hathkadi (1972) .... Janki/KiranHeera (1973) .... AshaAnjaan Raahen (1974) .... GeetaRani Aur Lalpari (1975) .... KamlaZakhmee (1975) .... AshaUdhar Ka Sindur (1976) .... ShantaKulvadhu (1977) .... ChandanAdha Din Adhi Raat (1977)Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978) .... Tulsi ChouhanPrem Vivah (1979)Bin Phere Hum Tere (1979) .... JamunaSau Din Saas Ke (1980) .... SheelaBulundi (1980)Khel Muqaddar Ka (1981)Kaalia (1981) .... ShantiPakhandi (1984)Dharam Aur Kanoon (1984)Manzil Manzil (1984) .... Vijay's momLavaa (1985) .... Amar's momCar Thief (1986) .... Mrs. MeheraSagar Sangam (1988)Main Tere Liye (1988) .... PritiHamara Khandaan (1988) .... Sharda Singh (Vishal's mom)Hum To Chale Pardes (1988)Hathyar (1989) .... Avinash's motherBatwara (1989) .... Bade Thakur's wifeSharavegada Saradara (1989) .... JanakiProfessor Ki Padosan (1993) .... Shobha (Professor's Wife)Bhagyawan (1994) .... SavitriGhar Ki Izzat (1994) .... SeetaAndolan (1995)Sar Aankhon Par (1999) .... Herself
- Gujarat State Award for Best Actress for Akhand Saubhagyavati (1963)
- Filmfare Award Nomination as Best Actress for Chirag (1969)
- Filmfare Best Actress Award for Kati Patang (1971)
- Filmfare Award Nomination as Best Supporting Actress for Udhar Ka Sindoor (1976)
- Filmfare Award Nomination as Best Supporting Actress for Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978)
- Padma Shri awarded in the Arts (1992)
- Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award (2002)
- Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA) felicitated Parekh for her outstanding contribution to the Indian film industry (2003)
- Kalakar Awards — Lifetime Achievement Award (2004)
- International Indian Film Academy Awards for outstanding achievement in Indian cinema (2006)
- Saptarang Ke Saptashee Award (2006)
- Gujarati Association of North America (GANA)'s First International Gujarati Convention—Lifetime Achievement Award (2006)
- Pune International Film Festival—Lifetime Achievement Award (2007)
- Bollywood Award—Lifetime Achievement Award (2007)
- Living Legend Award from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
- Film Federation of India honoured Parekh at its Golden Jubilee celebration ceremony (2008)
- Sahyadri Navratna Award given to Parekh for being a "woman of substance" (2008)
- Solitaire for Life Award from the ABN Amro Solitaire Design Awards show (2008)
- Nashik International Film Festival—Lifetime Achievement Award (2009)
- 'Lachchu Mahraj Puraskar' Award for Parekh's contribution to dance and acting (2009)
- 40th International Film Festival of India felicitated Parekh for completing 50 years in Hindi cinema (2009)
- 'Legends Live Forever Award' from the Immortal Memories Event (2009)
- Golden Laurel Award—Ninth Gr8 Women Achievers Awards (2010)
- Prakarti Ratan Award (2010)
- Jaipur International Film Festival—Lifetime Achievement Award (2011)
- Legendary Icon Cine Artist Award—Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Awards (2011)
- Sanskriti Kalashree Lifetime Achievement Award—Sanskriti Cultural Foundation (2011)
- Jeevan Gaurav Puraskar Award-Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial Nashik International Film Festival (2011)
- Bhishma Award by the Ashram Arts Academy (2012)
- "Walk of the Stars" honor, where a tile bears her handprint (2013)
- Jagran Film Festival—Lifetime Achievement Award (2014)
- Stardust-Lifetime Achievement Award (2015)
- Most Stylish Lifetime Style Icon Award--Hindustan Times Most Stylish Awards (2017)
- Second Best Book Award for her memoir "The Hit Girl" at the 5th annual Pune International Literary Festival (PILF)