Padukone was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her father, Prakash Padukone, is a top world level badminton player, and her mother is a travel agent. Her father was then training in Denmark in the sport. When she was eleven months old her family moved to Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Padukone has a younger sister, Anisha, born on 2 February 1991.
While in college, Padukone was a model. She took part in a ramp competition in NLS, Bangalore. She has modelled for such Indian brands as "Liril", "Dabur Lal powder", "Close-Up toothpaste" and "Limca", and has been "brand ambassador" for the "Jewels of India". The cosmetics company "Maybelline" made her its international spokesperson.
Padukone was chosen as the brand ambassador of "Levi Strauss". In addition, she appeared in the music video for Himesh Reshammiya's song "Naam Hai Tera".
Padukone made her film debut in Kannada with "Aishwarya" in 2006. The film was a Candyfloss Romantic Comedy and was a commercial success. She later made a successful Bollywood debut in 2007 with Farah Khan's blockbuster "Om Shanti Om". The film was a re-incarnation melodrama, featuring her in a double role. Her performance was well received, earning the actress a "Filmfare Best Female Debut Award" as well as her first "Filmfare Best Actress" nomination.
Padukone played a feisty, modern-day Indian woman, Gayatri, in Siddharth Anand's romantic comedy "Bachna Ae Haseeno". The film, which released on 15 August 2008, performed reasonably well at the box office, but her performance drew flak.
She played a double role again in "Chandni Chowk To China", which released on 16 January 2009. It was a critical and commercial disaster.
Padukone's fourth release "Love Aaj Kal", released on 31 July 2009, proved to be one of the biggest hits of 2009. Directed by Imtiaz Ali, the film documented the changing value of relationships among the youth. Padukone played the role of Meera Pandit, a practical and head-strong career woman opposite Saif Ali Khan. She received her second Filmfare Award for Best Actress nomination. She made guest appearances in the Telegu film "Love 4 Ever" and in Sohail Khan's "Main Aur Mrs Khanna".
Her first release in 2010 was Excel Entertainment’s "Karthik Calling Karthik". The thriller featured Farhan Akhtar as Karthik, a troubled schizophrenic man, and Padukone as his supportive girlfriend. It was a commercial failure. Yhen she played in Sajid Khan's multistarrer "Housefull" . The film became a blockbuster in India, with a net gross of INR 950 million in the first week.
She then appeared in her second Yash Raj production "Lafangey Parindey"
Her next release was Kunal Kohli's sentimental romance "Break Ke Baad" The film was not a commercial success but won Padukone favourable reviews.
Her final release of 2010 was Ashutosh Gowarikar's "Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey" met with scathing reviews and was declared a flop.
She began the year 2011 with an item number in Rohan Sippy's "Dum Maaro Dum". Her song was a remixed version of Zeenat Aman's iconic song from "Hare Rama Hare Krishna". The raunchy lyrics and suggestive dancing received mixed reviews.
Next, she played in Prakash Jha's reservation melodrama "Aarakshan" . In 2012 Padukone first appeared in Homi Adajania's "Cocktail". The film gyrated Padukone with praises, and earned her her third Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
Padukone was last seen in the multistarrer "Race 2". The film received a mostly negative critical reception. Despite this, "Race 2" was a commercial success. Padukone received mixed reviews.
Following this Padukone is all set to make her Kollywood debut in Soundarya Rajnikanth's "Kochadaiyaan". She is also set to appear in Ayan Mukerji's "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani".
Padukone is plaing in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Ram Leela" now.
As part of "NDTV's Greenathon Campaign", Padukone adopted Ambegaon, a village in Maharashtra, that was facing a major electricity crisis.
In 2009 Padukone started writing weekly columns for "HT City", the lifestyle supplement of "Hindustan Times". These columns appear online on social network, Desimartini.
She appeared on the cover of lifestyle magazine "Vogue" on May 2010 and 2011. She also walked the red carpet at the 2010 "Cannes Film Festival".
On November 2010 she appeared on "Koffee With Karan", a popular chat show along with Sonam Kapoor.