Jayabharathi's first leading role was given by director P. Venu in C.I.D. Nazir opposite Prem Nazir in 1971. And later she became one of the most successful Malayalam film actresses and performed with such notable leading men as Madhu, Vincent, Jayan, M. G. Soman, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Jayabharathi-MG Soman was a famous on screen pair of the 1970s and early 1980s She won the Kerala State Film Awards for her performances in various films in 1972 and Madhavikutty in 1973. One of her famous films was Rathinirvedam, directed by Bharathan, in which she played the role of a woman who fell in love with a boy younger than her. Rathinirvedam is regarded as a landmark in Indian film history. It is one of the most sensuous movies of all time, and is said to have redefined the art of movie making in South India. The extremely erotic scenes performed by Jayabharathi sent heat waves across Kerala. Even when some of the intelligentsia predicted the beginning of a new era of parallel cinema, a major section of Malayalis were on the warpath saying that mainstream Malayalam cinema had degenerated to porn. But in spite of the criticism, Rathinirvedam became one of the biggest box office hits in Kerala's history. It inspires similar productions all over South India, even decades after its release. She also directed few films in Malayalam.
After being trained since the age of five under Kalamandalam Natarajan, Rajaram (a student of Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai) and Vazhuvoor Samraj Pillai, Jayabharathi entered films as a teenager. Life revolved around film studios, dance rehearsals and stage performances. The actress is busy these days with her dance school, Aswathi Arts Academy, which she runs from home. She is also starting another one in Coimbatore. In 2003, Jayabharathi performed in nine temples in and around Kerala.
She is born as Lakshmi Bharathi, to Shivasankaran pilla and Sarada. She had her primary education from St.Rita Girls, Railway Colony School, Erode, Tamil Nadu. Malayalam actor Jayan was her first cousin.
She got married to actor Sathaar in 1979 with whom she has a son Unnikrishnan Sathaar born in 1984.