Meenakshi Seshadri was born into a Tamil family in Sindri, Jharkhand. She is trained in four Indian classical dance forms, namely, Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak and Odissi. She studied dance under Vempati Chinna Satyam and Jaya Rama Rao. She won the Eve's Weekly Miss India contest in 1981 at age of 17. She represented India at Miss International 1981 held in Tokyo, Japan but did not place.
Meenakshi Seshadri, born as Shashikala Seshadri, made her debut in the flop film Painter Babu, a 1983 Telugu/Hindi bilingual film opposite Rajiv Goswami, brother of Manoj Kumar. After Painter Babu, Seshadri decided to quit acting. She was encouraged by Subhash Ghai who cast her as his leading lady alongside another newcomer Jackie Shroff in Hero. The film went on to become a blockbuster and Seshadri became an overnight star. She immediately after success of Hero, got offers to star with Rajesh Khanna. She then appeared with Rajesh Khanna in Awara Baap in which she had double role, but the film underperformed. She then appeared in many commercially unsuccessful films mainly Love Marriage, Paisa Ye Paisa, and Lover Boy. Her next film Bewafai, again opposite Rajesh Khanna with Rajinikanth in negative role became one among the highest revenue earning films of the year 1985. This resulted in her gaining major foothold in the industry. Some of her films were moderately successful namely Swati, Mera Jawab and Aandhi Toofan. She then appeared in the film Hoshiyar alongside Jeetendra. Subhash Ghai again cast her in his next film, Meri Jung alongside Anil Kapoor which became one of the highest-grossing films of the year. In the same year she acted with Rajinikanth in Mahaguru as his heroine.
She appeared in many critically acclaimed films in 1986, mainly Swati a woman centric art house film, she performed the title role amongst an ensemble cast. The film gained immense critical acclaim and many critics said Meenakshi Seshadri has acted in Swati the way Amitabh Bachchan acts in his films. That same year she appeared in a romantic drama Dahleez alongside Jackie Shroff and Raj Babbar which dealt with a taboo topic of infidelity, the film though underperformed at the box office. Her other releases that year like Dilwaala (1986) and Allah Rakha were average performers at the box office. In 1987, she appeared in the hit film Inaam Dus Hazaar alongside Sanjay Dutt. She also appeared in Dacait, an action drama alongside Sunny Deol, it was a commercial failure. In 1988, she appeared in Yash Chopra's Vijay Seshadri was called the saving grace of the film and Yash Chopra filmed all the songs on her in his trademark Switzerland. In 1988, she appeared in Shahenshah alongside Amitabh Bachchan. The film was heavily hyped. After the mega success of Shahenshah, Meenakshi teamed up with Bachchan for films like Toofan, Akayla and Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswati but all three became box-office flops. In 1989, she was directed by Dev Anand in the film Sachché Ká Bol-Bálá. In 1989, she made her Tamil film debut with En Rathathin Rathame which was remake of Hindi film Mr. India opposite Bhagyaraj which bombed in the Box office. In 1989, she appeared in the woman centric family drama Bade Ghar Ki Beti in the title role and the family drama Gharana and these 2 films were moderate successes.
Her pairing with Mithun Chakraborthy was the most successful one as both were great dancers and complimented each other in Aandhi Toofan,Main Balwan, Dilwaala, Parivaar, Bees Saal Baad, Pyar Ka Karz and Shandaar. Also her pairing and on-screen chemistry with Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Rishi Kapoor, Sunny Deol and Vinod Khanna was often cited by the media as successful. Her successful films with Anil Kapoor include Aag Se Khelenge, Meri Jung, Awaargi and Ghar Ho Toh Aisa but the rest like Love Marriage, Amba, Joshilaay, Vijay and Humlaa were box office duds.
In 1990, she appeared in two films of Mahesh Bhatt, first Awaargi, an art house film. Meenakshi's performance was critically acclaimed and many critics call it her best performance The second film was Jurm, released in the same year. The film was a critical and commercial success. Her role of a wife who has to face problems after her husband gets involved in another woman gained immense critical praise. She received her first nomination for the Filmfare Award for best actress for her role in the film. She also appeared in the woman centric film Ghar Ho To Aisa opposite Anil Kapoor, the film was a hit and Seshadri was noted for her comic timing in the film. She then appeared in Ghayal alongside Sunny Deol. This film started her long association with Rajkumar Santoshi. Ghayal was the highest-grossing film of the 1990s and became a blockbuster upon its release. In 1991, she appeared in Akayla, directed by Ramesh Sippy opposite Amitabh Bachchan, despite being overly hyped the film flopped at the box office. Her on screen pair with Vinod Khanna was widely appreciated and the pair gave sucessful films like Satyamev Jayate, Mahaadev,Jurm, Humshakal and Police Aur Mujrim. She acted in family drama Ghar Parivar in 1991 with Rajesh Khanna and Rishi Kapoor as her co-stars and the film did very good business. She made her Telugu film debut with Brahmarishi Vishwamitra in 1991. In 1992, she appeared in the Telugu film Aapad Bandhavudu opposite Cheeranjeevi. In 1992 her film Aaj Ka Goonda Raaj opposite Cheeranjeevi was hit. In 1993, she appeared in the woman centric film Damini – Lightning. Directed by filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi, it also starred Rishi Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Amrish Puri, Tinnu Anand, and Paresh Rawal. The film was based on the sensitive subject of injustice towards a rape victim. Damini received a number of awards including a National Film Award. She was nominated for a Filmfare Award for her role in the film Damini. Her portrayal as Damini was highly praised and she won many accolades for her performance in the film. Damini is regarded as Seshadri's career defining role.
She also had the privilege to work with the thespian Dilip Kumar in his directorial debut Kalinga. Meenakshi was chosen by Kumar to enact the main role in the film. Though 80% of the film was made but unfortunately the film did not see the light of the day and never released.
In 1992 she did a Telugu film Apathbandavudu with Cheeranjevi under direction of K.Vishwanath. In 1993, she also appeared in Aadmi Khilona Hai opposite Govinda and Kshatriya opposite Vinod Khanna both the films were successful at the box office. In 1994, she appeared in the Tamil film Duet opposite Prabhu Ganeshan directed by K. Balachander. Meenakshi played the female lead in the 1996 film, Ghatak: Lethal, opposite Sunny Deol directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and this film became a hit and was one of the highest-grossing films of 1996. This was her last film. After this film, she got married and settled in the United States.
After her marriage she was seen making a rare appearance on Shekhar Suman's talk show. After a few years of her marriage she shifted her base to US. In an interview she stated "belonging from a very Indo-centric background, life abroad shook me, I just could not relate myself with the US environs". However, with the passage of time she has settled there. Now she is successfully running her own dance school in Dallas called "Cherish Institute of Dance", the school is described as "an assembly of talented dancers, a voluntary body to enhance multi-culture, revealing the best talent of people of all ages". Besides running a dance school in US a documentary film was made on her life by Margret Stephens called 'Meenakshi Accept Her Wings' the two-hour musical documentary depicts the transitional lifestyle of dancer, actress to a homemaker. The movie tells about her life after movies and marriage.
She retired from cinema after marrying investment banker Harish Mysore. She had a civil wedding, a registered marriage, in New York. The couple have three children, daughter Kendra and sons Josh and Matt. Meenakshi lives in Plano, Texas. There, she teaches Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Odissi. She performs with her students at charity events and fundraisers. A philanthropist, Meenakshi and her disciples performed at the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) convention in California.
Seshadri is not only known for her acting skills, but for her dancing skills as well. Often referred to as "Damini", she is famous for her dance in the song "Tu Mera Hero Hai" from the film Hero. She is also known for her dance sequences accompanying Bollywood songs such as "Pyar Karne Wale" (from Hero), "Jaane Do Jaane Do" (from Shahenshah) opposite Amitabh Bachchan, "Badal Pe Chalke" (from Vijay) opposite Anil Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor, "Bin Saajan Jhula" (from Damini) opposite Aamir Khan, "Sajan Mera Uss Par Hai" (from Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswati), "Mujre Wali Hoon" (from Awaargi), "Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye" (from Jurm) and "Badan Main Chandni" (from Ghatak). Her Tandav dance in Damini is considered to be the best and most intense dance performance in Indian cinema.
She relates herself more closely as a dancer than an actress. With a desire to continue the art and extend this culture in a foreign land, Meenakshi with the support of her husband, Harish introduced "Cherish Dance School".
She made few appearances on talk shows and rarely gave interviews. In 1987, she appeared in an interview held in London in which she discussed her personal and professional life.
In 1992 Seshadri featured in a documentary made for television called World of Film: India, the documentary was about the Indian film industry and Seshadri featured with stalwarts like Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Mira Nair
In 1997 she made a rare public appearance on Shekhar Suman's talk show Movers and Shakers, this was also her last television appearance before she left the industry to raise her children. She discussed her entire career as well as personal life along with her passion for dance and her stage performances.
In 2006 a documentary was made on her life called Meenakshi Accept Her Wings, which was directed by Margret Stephens the two-hour musical documentary depicted the transitional lifestyle of a dancer, actress to a homemaker. The movie gave a deeper insight to her life after quitting films and her successful marriage.1991 – Filmfare Nomination as Best Actress for Jurm
1994 – Filmfare Nomination as Best Actress for Damini
1993 – Smita Patil Memorial Award for Best Actress