Kapoor was born on 25 June 1974 in Mumbai, to actors Randhir Kapoor and Babita (née Shivdasani). Her younger sister, Kareena, is also an actress. Her paternal grandfather was the actor and filmmaker Raj Kapoor, while her maternal grandfather was actor Hari Shivdasani. Her great-grandfather was actor Prithviraj. She is the niece of actors Rishi and Rajiv, and insurance agent Ritu. Actor Ranbir Kapoor and businessman Nikhil Nanda are her first cousins, while actress Sasha Agha is her distant relative. Actress Sadhana, was her mother's first cousin. According to Kapoor, the name "Lolo" was derived after her mother made a passing reference to the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. Both of her paternal and maternal grandparents were from Peshawar, Lyallpur and Karachi respectively, who moved to Bombay for their film careers, before the partition of India. Kapoor is of Hindu Punjabi descent on her father's side, and on her mother's side she is of Sindhi and British descent.
She was particularly inspired by the work of actresses Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit.
Despite her family background, her father disapproved of women working in films, because he believed it conflicted with the traditional maternal duties and responsibility of women in the family. This led to a conflict between her parents and they separated in 1988. She and her sister, Kareena, were raised by her mother, who worked several jobs to raise them, until she made her debut in films as an actress. The couple reconciled in 2007, after living separately for several years. Kapoor studied at the Cathedral and John Connon School and later, for a few months, at Sophia College.
Kapoor made her acting debut in 1991 at the age of seventeen with the romantic drama Prem Qaidi, opposite debutante Harish Kumar. Upon release, the film emerged as a moderate box office success and received mixed reviews from critics, as did Kapoor's performance, with Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama describing at as "mechanical". The following year, Kapoor's first five releases—Police Officer, Jaagruti, Nishchaiy, Sapne Sajan Ke and Deedar—flopped at the box office. Jaagruti and Nishchaiy marked her first two collaborations with Salman Khan, while Deedar marked her first collaboration with Akshay Kumar. She next starred in the action drama Jigar (1992), followed by the romantic drama Anari (1993), both of which emerged as box office hits and among the highest-grossing films of their respective years. Jigar marked Kapoor's first of several collaborations with Ajay Devgn, while Anari featured her in the leading role of Rajnandini, a princess who falls in love with her poor servant (played by Daggubati Venkatesh).
Kapoor's next four releases of 1993 were the dramas Muqabla (which marked first of her many collaborations with Govinda), Sangraam, Shaktiman and Dhanwaan. With the exception of Muqabla, none of these films performed well either critically or commercially. In 1994, Kapoor had nine film releases; four of them — Prem Shakti, Dulaara, Andaz and Aatish—were critical and commercial failures. Her first hit that year was David Dhawan's comedy film Raja Babu, opposite Govinda, in which she played Madhubala, an educated arrogant girl who calls off her engagement upon discovering about her fiancée's illiteracy. Kapoor next played the blind wife of Govinda's character in the hit action drama Khuddar, following which she starred with Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Raveena Tandon in Rajkumar Santoshi's highly acclaimed comedy film Andaz Apna Apna. Kapoor played Raveena Bajaj, the daughter of a London-based business tycoon, who travels to India in search of true love, and falls for Salman Khan's character. Although the film underperformed at the box office, though developed a significant cult following over the years since its release.
Kapoor's final two releases of the year were the action drama Suhaag (alongside Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar and Nagma) and the comedy-drama Gopi Kishan (alongside Suniel Shetty and Shilpa Shirodkar), both of which were critically and commercially successful. In the former, she starred as a college student and Devgn's love interest, while in the latter, she played a police commissioner's daughter who falls in love with a criminal. In 1995, post appearing in the box office flops Jawab and Maidan-E-Jung, Kapoor starred as Malti, a rich girl who marries a poor coolie (played by Govinda) in David Dhawan's blockbuster comedy film Coolie No. 1. The feature garnered good reviews and emerged as a commercial success grossing ₹911 million (US$14 million) in India. On her initial career struggle, she later said:
When I first entered the industry, things were made tough for me. I am not saying that I was singled out. I think every star kid has to go through this. Everyone was so unfair to me. Other newcomers were praised for every little achievement, but I was not given an iota of acknowledgement. When it came to me, it was always, ‘Okay, she has done well but what’s the big deal about her?’. Nobody gave me a 17-year-old credit for doing my job reasonably well.
In 1996, Kapoor appeared in ten films. Five of them—Papi Gudia, Megha, Bal Bramhachari, Sapoot, Rakshak—were commercially unsuccessful. Her next release was David Dhawan's romance Saajan Chale Sasural, co-starring Govinda and Tabu. Saajan Chale Sasural emerged as a commercial success. For her fifth release, Kapoor was paired opposite Suneil Shetty in S. Deepak's box-office hit Krishna. She starred alongside Sunny Deol, Salman Khan and Tabu in Raj Kanwar's romantic drama Jeet. She played Kajal, a woman who falls in love with a criminal, but ends up marrying another man. Finishing up as the second highest-grossing film of the year, Jeet emerged as a "super-hit" at the box office. Critical reaction was positive on both the film as well as Kapoor's performance. That same year, Kapoor played the female lead in Dharmesh Darshan's Raja Hindustani opposite Aamir Khan. The movie was the highest-grossing film of the year and she won her first Filmfare Best Actress Award; the film's success established Kapoor as a leading actress of Hindi cinema, and marked a significant turning point in her career. Raja Hindustani, was not only the biggest commercial success of 1996, but also one of the most successful films of all time in India with revenues of ₹4.8 billion (US$75 million). Kapoor's final release of 1996 was Suneel Darshan's action Ajay, with Sunny Deol. The film was also a financial success. she is the best ever
In 1997, Kapoor re-united with David Dhawan for two projects, the comedy film Judwaa (alongside Salman Khan and Rambha), and the romantic comedy Hero No. 1 (opposite Govinda). The former's concept was similar to Gopi Kishan; it tells the story of twin brothers who are separated at birth and re-unite in their youth. Kapoor and Rambha played the love interests of Khan's characters. It was a moderate critical and commercial success. In Hero No. 1, she played Meena Nath, a girl who falls in love with Govinda's character while on a foreign trip, however, finds it hard to convince her strict grandfather (Paresh Rawal) of this relationship. A major critical and commercial success, the film earned Kapoor praise for her portrayal. She eventually received a nomination for Zee Cine Award for Best Actress for her work in the film. She next starred in Mehul Kumar-directed dramas, Lahu Ke Do Rang and Mrityudata, both of which were critical and commercial failures. Kapoor's fifth and final release of 1997 was Yash Chopra's musical romantic drama Dil To Pagal Hai. Co-starring Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit, the film depicts the love stories of the dancers in a musical dance troupe. Kapoor played the supporting role of Nisha, a bubbly dancer who secretly falls in love with her best friend (played by Khan), however, unites her with the girl he loves (played by Dixit). Initially hesitant to take on the part, Kapoor was cast by Chopra (after he was impressed by her work in Raja Hindustani) post several leading actresses of the time had put down the role. Dil To Pagal Hai emerged as a blockbuster at the box office and proved to be the second highest-grossing film of the year. Kapoor remarked, "I looked at the role not from a star's point of view but from that of an actress. And I discovered that despite its length there was a lot of scope for me as a performer". Kapoor eventually won the National Film Award and Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role.
The following year, Kapoor had no release, however, she was offered the second lead role in Karan Johar's blockbuster romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which she rejected. Her diminutive comeback in 1999 proved to be good as she took part in the year's most successful films. Kapoor starred in four absolute hits. She next re-united with Dhawan and Salman Khan (alongside Sushmita Sen) for the romantic comedy Biwi No.1, in which she portrayed Pooja, a woman whose husband gets involved in an extra-marital affair with a model. The film which emerged as a major commercial success, earned Kapoor critical praise for her performance. Mohammad Ali Ikram of Planet Bollywood commented, "Karisma may not look like a mother of two offspring, but she continues to mature as an actress with each successive film." Kapoor received a second Best Actress nomination at Filmfare for her work in the film. She proved to be successful with comedy films, as David Dhawan's another film Haseena Maan Jaayegi, did fairly well at the box office. Kapoor collaborated for the first time with the Rajshri Productions for the family drama Hum Saath-Saath Hain: We Stand United. The film featured an ensemble cast (Mohnish Behl, Salman Khan, Tabu and Sonali Bendre) proved to be one of the biggest Bollywood success of all time in the market, earning over ₹1 billion (US$16 million) worldwide. Her last release of the year, Jaanwar opposite Akshay Kumar, was another box office hit, making her the most successful actress of the year.
Kapoor's first release of 2000 was Dhawan's romantic comedy Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge opposite Salman Khan. She played Sapna, a girl who falls for Khan's character while on a foreign trip, however, finds it tough to convince her three uncles of this relationship. The film finished up as one of the biggest hits of the year. Aparajita Saha of Rediff commented, "Karisma Kapoor and Salman Khan elicit more than their fair share of cat calls in the movie and make a delectable pair. Both are in form – Karisma looks glamorous and at ease while Salman has perfected the lost-boy-muscle-man get up". Kapoor's next two releases, the romantic comedies Chal Mere Bhai (opposite Khan and Dutt) and Hum To Mohabbat Karega (opposite Bobby Deol) failed to do well at the box office.
That same year, Kapoor won her second Filmfare Best Actress Award for portraying the title role of a girl, in search of her brother, in Khalid Mohammed's crime drama Fiza, a film, which received critical acclaim. Her performance in the film was highly acclaimed and several critics noted her for showing great emotional range and depth. Mimmy Jain of The Indian Express, in a positive review, wrote, "As the young girl who is sick of the suspense and disruption that her brother's disappearance has caused in her family's life, as the obstinate daughter who will not listen to her mother's plea to let her keep hoping for her son, as the determined sister who keeps on in her hunt for her brother despite all odds and then seeks to keep him on the right path, this is a new Karisma, and one that delivers a superbly flawless performance." Planetbollywood.com described Kapoor "A multifaceted actress. Kapoor has not diminished her demand". The film emerged as a "semi hit" at the box-office with a worldwide gross of ₹878 million (US$14 million).
In 2001, she achieved further critical acclaim for her portrayal of a real life actress in the biographical drama Zubeidaa. Directed by Shyam Benegal, the film was based on the life of an ill-fated actress Zubeida Begum, who married a Sikh Hanwant Singh. The Tribune complimented her by arguing that she "has surpassed herself as the passionate, defiant, wilful and troubled Zubeidaa, the truly modern woman." In an interview with Rediff she explained, "I have been here so long, I have done everything. Lead roles, supporting roles, everything. How do I grow as a performer? If I keep doing commercial cinema, I will stagnate and I wanted to grow". For her work, she was awarded the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress and also garnered a Best Actress nomination at the ceremony. Co-starring Rekha and Manoj Bajpai, the film had worldwide earnings of over ₹239.552 million (US$3.7 million). She next starred alongside Bobby Deol and Rahul Dev in Indra Kumar's Aashiq, the movie received little praise from critics, though proved to be a modest success grossing over ₹260 million (US$4.1 million) domestically. A review in Planet Bollywood said about her performance, "Acting-wise, Karisma is unchallenged as she reverts from substance roles like Zubeidaa, back to her shrieking annoying self (is it acting, or just natural?)". Suneel Darshan's social drama Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love was Kapoor's next release. Co-starring Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar, the film became one of the biggest hits of the year.
In 2002, Kapoor had three film releases, of which first was the romantic drama Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya, opposite Akshay Kumar and Abhishek Bachchan. She next starred alonsgide Nana Patekar in the woman-centric drama Shakti: The Power, playing the role of Nandini, a woman who wants to fly away from her in-laws (involved in feudal gang wars) along with her son, post her husband's death. The film, a remake of the Telugu film Antahpuram (1998), was itself based on the life of author Betty Mahmoody. Shakti: The Power was critically acclaimed and also earned Kapoor highly positive reviews for her portrayal; Taran Adarsh reviewed, "The power clearly belongs to Karisma Kapoor. Breathing fire and venom to win back her son from the clutches of a despot, the actress gives it all to the character of a helpless mother and proves what a virtuoso performer she is. Playing the part of a wounded tigress, this is one performance that overshadows all the performances the year has seen so far". Kapoor's work in the film earned her Best Actress nominations at several award ceremonies, including fifth at Filmfare. Her final release that year was Indra Kumar's romantic drama Rishtey, alongside Anil Kapoor and Shilpa Shetty. She featured as Komal, a wealthy woman who falls in love with a poorer man and marries him against her father's wish. Despite much anticipation, Kapoor's all three releases that year underperformed at the box office.
In 2003, she starred in Baaz: A Bird in Danger which was her only release that year. Later in the same year she made her television debut in the Sahara One soap opera Karishma - The Miracles of Destiny in which she played a dual role of a grandmother and granddaughter. The serial ended after 260 episodes in 2004 and she took a sabbatical from full-time acting for several years. In 2006, Kapoor was seen in Mere Jeevan Saathi: the film had been shot and completed in 2003 but was delayed for three years. In 2007, Kapoor won the Koffee Award for Best Supporting Appearance. In 2008, alongside actor Arjun Rampal and director–choreographer Farah Khan, Kapoor began judging the season four of the dance show Nach Baliye, and continued the following year with the comedy show Hans Baliye. In addition she had a cameo in the song "Deewangi Deewangi" from the 2007 melodrama Om Shanti Om, and in 2008 was as guest on the reality television show Wife Bina Life (2010). Kapoor also ventured into voice acting, voicing for her younger sister Kareena in the role of Chhaya in the 2012 action thriller Bodyguard, which rank among one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time.
Kapoor made her comeback as an actress with a leading role in Vikram Bhatt's supernatural thriller Dangerous Ishhq. Co-starring Rajneesh Duggal, the film spans over a period of four centuries and tells four different love stories set in different time periods. Kapoor played four characters, one from each century. A major critical and box office failure, the film generated positive reviews for Kapoor's portrayal. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama commented, "Karisma Kapoor puts forth her best efforts, getting to deliver lines in varied dialects. She gets the dialects right, especially Urdu and Rajasthani, but there's not much scope for her to display her acting prowess". In 2013, Kapoor made a special appearance along with several other actors in the titular song of the anthology film Bombay Talkies, which was made to honour the Hindi film industry for completing hundred years. In late 2017, Kapoor will reprise the role of Mala, in a cameo appearance along with Salman Khan in the romantic comedy Judwaa 2, a sequel to Judwaa.
Kapoor was in a relationship with her Jigar co-star Ajay Devgan from 1992 till they broke up in 1995. She got engaged to Abhishek Bachchan in 2002, but the engagement was called off after a few months. This ended their relationship of a few years and no reason were given of the break-up.
On 29 September 2003, she married industrialist Sunjay Kapur, the CEO of Sixt India, in a high-profile Sikh wedding ceremony at her ancestral home, Krishna Raj Bungalow, in Mumbai. The couple have a daughter Samaira, born in 2005 and a son Kiaan born in 2010. In 2014, the couple filed for a divorce through mutual consent. In November 2015, the couple had filed applications to withdraw their consent to it. The couple's divorce was finalized in 2016.
During her years in the film industry, Kapoor has been involved in different charitable organizations and has particularly supported women's causes in India. Kapoor supports her close friend Salman Khan's charitable trust Being Human Foundation. In 2005, along with other Bollywood stars, Kapoor performed at the HELP! Telethon Concert, raising money for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. In 2010, Kapoor along with Salman Khan and several other Bollywood actresses walked at the HDIL India Couture Week, for a charity cause. Kapoor was a goodwill ambassador for Pinkathon 2012 for breast cancer awareness. In 2013, Kapoor participated in a campaign with Priyanka Chopra to highlight the rights of girls in India.
Kapoor is also a celebrity endorser for many brands including Kellogg's, Crescent Lawn, Admix Retail, and Danone. She has also endorsed for an international skin care brand. Kapoor is currently the face of international cosmetic and beauty brand Garnier Colour. She walked the runway for such designers as Manish Malhotra, Arpita Mehta, and Vikram Phadnis. Kapoor has been part of several stage shows and world tours since '90s. The Heartthrobs: Live in Concert was successfully performed across the United States and Canada alongside Arjun Rampal, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Aftab Shivdasani. In 2016, Kapoor participated in the Hiru Golden Film Awards in Sri Lanka as a special guest along with several other Bollywood actors, including Neil Nitin Mukesh, Sunil Shetty, Jackie Shroff, Sridevi, and Madhuri Dixit.
Kapoor has been described by the critics as one of the most talented actress in Bollywood. Despite constant media speculation, she keeps her personal life well-guarded. Her beauty and performances have made her as a style icon for young women. In 2012, film critic Subhash K. Jha labelled her "the best actress in the post-Sridevi generation" and listed her character in Raja Hindustani as being "one of the finest inwardly ravaged characters in Bollywood." Following her portrayal of a variety of character types in Raja Hindustani (1996), Dil Toh Pagal Hai (1997), Fiza (2000), Zubeida (2001) and Shakti: The Power (2002), Kapoor gained a reputation for playing roles that go against Indian traditional mores and was often recognized for her versatility. In 2010, Filmfare Magazine included three of her performancces—from Raja Hindustani, Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Fiza—in Its list of "80 Iconic Performances". Critics attributed her roles in films as to establishing a new image for leading actresses in Bollywood. After her performance in Raja Hindustani, The Times of India called her a "game changer". Film critic Komal Nahta reviewed that "there is an admirable zest that Karisma pumps into every role she does."
Kapoor is one of the best-known celebrities in India; at the peak of her career, she was one of Hindi cinema's most celebrated and highest-paid actresses. She was considered by the media one of the most popular Bollywood celebrities in India. The UK magazine Eastern Eye ranked her as one of "Asia's Sexiest Women" in 2002. Planetbollywood.com described Kapoor as a "multifaceted actress, who has not diminished her demand". Kapoor appeared on Box Office India's list of three "Top Actresses" for five consecutive years and ranked first for two years (1997, 1999). She topped Rediff.com's annual listing of the "Top Bollywood Actresses" for three consecutive years (1997–2000); in 2003, she held the fifth position. Kapoor has featured on Forbes India's "Celebrity 100," a list based on the income and popularity of India's celebrities, peaking at the seventy-six position in 2012 with an estimated annual earning of ₹110.55 million (US$1.7 million). As of 2016, her films have grossed over ₹25 billion (US$390 million). with eight movies making more than ₹1 billion (US$16 million). Kapoor first appeared on the Indian rich list published annually in the Business Review Weekly with an estimated net worth of ₹510 million (US$8.0 million).Raja Hindustani (1996)Dil Toh Pagal Hai (1997)Biwi No.1 (1999)Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999)Fiza (2000)Zubeidaa (2001)Shakti: The Power (2002)
Kapoor is the recipient of a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for Dil Toh Pagal Hai (1997), and four Filmfare Awards: Best Actress for Raja Hindustani (1996) and Fiza (2000), Best Supporting Actress for Dil Toh Pagal Hai (1997), and Best Actress Critics for Zubeidaa (2001). Additionally, she has received three Best Actress nominations at Filmfare for Biwi No. 1 (1999), Zubeidaa (2001) and Shakti: The Power (2002).