Dulquer Salmaan was born on 28 July 1986 in Kochi, Kerala, India. He completed his secondary level education from Sishya School in Chennai. He then moved to the United States and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Business Management from Purdue University. After graduation, he worked in the U.S. and later did an I.T. related business in Dubai. He decided later to pursue a career in acting and attended a three-month course at the Barry John Acting Studio in Mumbai. He stated in a 2012 interview that he chose acting because " ... somewhere down the lane my life became monotonous and routine".
In 2011, Salmaan signed on for debutante Srinath Rajendran's Second Show (2012) in which he played the role of Harilal, a gangster. When asked in an interview about his "unconventional entry with a bunch of newcomers", Salmaan stated that it was his conscious decision as he felt that " ... when an actor debuts, he has to earn the right to be a hero and not get it through a shortcut route." The film received mixed reviews. A critic for Sify stated, " ... it is Salmaan's amazing screen presence and a matured acting style that makes the movie an engaging watch", while Paresh C Palicha of Rediff criticized his performance. "There is no denying that he looks dapper and has an attractive baritone (a gift of his gene pool). But that does not translate into good performance or acting." The film was commercially successful and won him the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut.
Salmaan next starred in Anwar Rasheed's Ustad Hotel (2012). The film, which received the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, was also a major success at the box office. He also won praise for his portrayal of Faizy. Anil R Nair, writing for The New Indian Express, stated, "The youthful and glamorous Dulquer has come out of his father’s shadow in the role of Faisi." For his performance, Salmaan received his first nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor. His third film was Theevram, a crime thriller directed by Roopesh Peethambaran. The film, which released on November 2012, received mixed reviews and was a box office failure.
In 2013, he signed on to appear in Martin Prakkat's comedy drama ABCD: American-Born Confused Desi in which he made his singing debut with "Johnny Mone Johnny". Both the song and the film became popular. Though the film received mixed reviews, his performance was well received by critics. Sify stated: "it is Dulquer Salmaan's show all the way and in all fairness the young actor has given his heart and soul into his character." He was also part of Amal Neerad's segment Kullante Bharya in the anthology film 5 Sundarikal (2013). The film was critically acclaimed, with praise specially directed towards Kullante Bharya. Aswin J. Kumar of The Times of India wrote, " ... it's the tale of the nameless woman, 'Kullante Bharya' that stays with the viewer." He also praised Salmaan's performance as a photographer who was bound to his wheelchair. Salmaan then collaborated with Sameer Thahir in Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi (2013), a road movie. The film and his performance was appreciated. Salmaan starred in his "first love story", cinematographer Alagappan's romantic drama Pattam Pole (2013), co-starring debutante Malavika Mohanan. The film was a commercial failure.
In 2014, Salmaan took on another romantic role in Salalah Mobiles, with Nazriya Nazim opposite him; like Pattam Pole, Salalah Mobiles could not garner much success for the actor. Salmaan's next appearance was in the Tamil-Malayalam bilingual Vaayai Moodi Pesavum (2014). While the Malayalam version Samsaaram Aarogyathinu Haanikaram was received poorly, the Tamil version received positive reviews and became a sleeper hit. IANS said Salmaan is "a treat to watch" and added, "he earns extra brownie points for dubbing in his own voice and speaking flawless Tamil." He received his second Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut for the film.
In Anjali Menon's ensemble romantic comedy drama Bangalore Days (2014), Salmaan played Arjun with Nivin Pauly and Nazriya Nazim as his cousins. The film received positive reviews and emerged as one of the highest-grossing Malayalam films of all time, grossing around ₹500 million (US$7.8 million). Later that year, he co-starred with Unni Mukundan in Lal Jose's Vikramadithyan. It was a commercial success. He then performed in what he called his "most challenging film yet" in Renjith's Njaan (2014). His performance received favorable reviews and earned him several accolades, including a second Best Actor nomination at Filmfare.
In 2015, he acted opposite Nithya Menen in two films—Jenuse Mohamed's romantic comedy 100 Days of Love, and Mani Ratnam's Tamil romantic drama O Kadhal Kanmani. The latter opened to positive reviews and became successful at the box office. About Salmaan's performance, The Hindu's critic Baradwaj Rangan wrote: "Dulquer Salmaan checks off all boxes in the Can You Be The Next Madhavan? questionnaire", though he believed the film belonged primarily to Menen. Salmaan next played the titular character in Martin Prakkat's Charlie (2015). The film generated a positive response from critics and received eight Kerala State Film Awards, with Salmaan receiving his first Best Actor Award. He also received a third Best Actor nomination at Filmfare.
Salmaan reunited with Sameer Thahir for his first release in 2016, Kali co-starring Sai Pallavi. When released, the film earned the highest opening day box office gross for a Malayalam film. He then starred in Rajeev Ravi's crime drama Kammatipaadam (2016). The film garnered critical acclaim and became his third consecutive financial success in two years.
He then appeared in Sathyan Anthikad's family drama Jomonte Suvisheshangal (2017). Despite comparisons with 2016 Malayalam drama Jacobinte Swargarajyam, the film did well commercially. As of February 2017, Salmaan has completed work on Amal Neerad's romantic action film Comrade In America and is currently filming Bejoy Nambiar's Solo. In addition, he has committed to star in projects by Ra Karthik, Salaam Bukhari and Lal Jose.
Salmaan is the second child of actor Mammootty and his wife Sulfath. He has an elder sister, Surumi. On 22 December 2011, he married architect Amal Sufiya in an arranged marriage. Amal comes from a North Indian Muslim family settled in Chennai. The couple had their daughter Maryam Ameerah Salmaan on 5 May 2017.
He has also been involved in several social service activities. He has acted in a short film as part of the Kerala motor vehicle department's safe riding campaign. He donated 150 items, including clothing, shoes, books, school supplies and crockery items, as a part of the Chennai Gives initiative. In addition, he is the owner of a web portal for trading cars and a dental business chain in Chennai. He also acts as the director of the Bangalore-based Motherhood Hospital.