Born in Pune, Sandeep was raised in a Maharashtrian middle-class Kayasth family by father Shrikant Kulkarni and mother Lata Kulkarni. Though an introvert during his early schooling in Mumbai, he expressed his thoughts through the power of sketches and colours. Further on towards high school, he decided to become an 'artist’ while envisioning graduation from the best arts school in Mumbai — Sir J. J. School of Art.
During his journey of becoming an artist at Sir J. J. School of Art, he was blessed with the mentorship of professors such as Prabhakar Kolte and Atul Dodia, both leading Indian painters. These mentors recognized the spark in Sandeep and helped him discover the flame of visual art. This nurturing and influence evolved Sandeep as a painter which eventually saw him participate in group monsoon show — a first exhibition of his work at the Jehangir Art Gallery (1986). Staying focused, eventually Sandeep completed his graduation (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in 1986.
While pursuing painting, Sandeep was also exploring acting until he met Pandit Satyadev Dubey, the much-respected and admired theatre thespian. Heavily influenced and inspired by his teachings, Sandeep found himself perfectly fit to be an actor.
After intense theatre for four years in English, Marathi and Hindi, his career started to take shape in television. He played varied roles such as that of young Muslim lawyer Salim in love with a local Muslim woman on 9 Malabar Hill on Zee TV, a press reporter in Farz on DD Metro, an underworld don who deals with drugs in Swabhiman on DD, a counselor in Nyay on DD Metro. He also played the role of a cop who solves the mystery behind an old couple refusing to accept the dead body of their son in the much-talked-about one-hour suspense thriller First Kill directed by Shriram Raghavan.
Sandeep’s career in films began with his first role in the movie Mammo (1994) directed by the legendary Shyam Benegal, set in the backdrop of India Pakistan Partition (1947). He was seen playing the role of an immigration officer (Apte) who tries to help the immigrant protagonist Mammo.
He played the role of a gangster, Shankar, who chases the hero throughout the plot wearing a new pair of shoes that bite and eventually hurt him in Is Raat Ki Subaah Nahin (1996) directed by Sudhir Mishra. His role added to the black humor of the film.
He played a Naxalite who later becomes an activist, in spite of his colleagues being caught and killed in Hazar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998), directed by Goving Nihalani.
Shwaas (2004), directed by Sandip Sawant, put Sandeep’s performance under spotlight. He played the role of an oncologist who attempts to convince the grandfather of a child suffering from eye cancer to agree to a life-saving surgery although he is faced with the reality of child becoming permanently blind. Sandeep's biggest compliment of his career was earned when, after watching the film, the legendary actor Shabana Azmi asked him if he had studied medicine. Shwass won Sandeep numerous awards: the State Award being one of them. The film won the National Award as well and was India's official entry to the Oscars.
In a 2005 film, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi directed by Sudhir Mishra, Sandeep played a Naxal leader, Probir, involved in spreading the Naxalite movement from Bengal to India.
2005 saw another success in Sandeep's career when he played a common man from downtown (Dombivali), on the edge of busy, frustrating, unimproved and deteriorating daily lifestyle who eventually starts straightening things around him in the critically acclaimed Dombivali Fast directed by Nishikant Kamath.
In 2005 Sandeep also played the role of Sane Guruji, a biopic teacher, poet, freedom fighter, also known as Gandhiji of Maharashtra in Sane Guruji. Sandeep’s career includes other series of films such as Adhantari (2005), Maay Baap (2006), Rajkaran (2007).
Traffic Signal (2006) is a national award-winning film, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, where Sandeep played an NGO volunteer who is seen helping street children.
In the Marathi film Made in China (2009), he took the role of a young farmer who is literate and updated on technology and who challenges his uncle, a politician who intends to bring in a special economic zone (SEZ). 2009 also saw him perform the double role of a young businessman creating identity crisis for his wife, family and friends. In 2009 Sandeep won the best actor award in the International Nigerian Film Festival for Ek Daav Sansaracha where he plays the role of a husband with a complex due to a failed marriage, blamed impotency and his struggle to make a second marriage work.
In 2010 other Marathi films that Sandeep acted in include Khel SaatBaracha and Pratisaad - The Response. Other films in the pipeline scheduled for release in 2011 included Nirvana 13 and Paranoia (under production).
Sandeep married Kanchan Naik in 1999. She completed her Masters of Fine Arts from Sir J. J. School of Art. They have a son named Vrundar Kulkarni. Sandeep has one brother Captain Sachin Kulkarni who is a General Manager with a reputed shipping company in Singapore.Avantika
Guntata Hriday He
9 Malabar Hill (1997)
Farz (DD Metro)
Nyaay (DD Metro)
Sandeep has received the Nigerian International Film Festival Award for Best Actor for his role in "Ek Daav Sansaracha".2008 - Nigerian International Film Festival Award - Best Actor, Ek Daav Sansaracha
2004 - Official entry for the Oscars: Shwaas
2004 - Shwaas
2005 - Dombivali Fast
2007 - Traffic Signal
2004 - Best Actor, Shwaas
2005 - Best Actor, Dombivali Fast
2005 - Best Actor, Adhantari
2004 - Zee Award – Best Actor, Shwaas
2005 - Zee Award – Best Actor, Maharashtra Times Awards – Best Actor, Dombivali Fast