She acted in many Bollywood films between 1961 and 1980. Her grandmother was the courtesan Chamiyan Bai, also known as Shamshad Begum of Delhi (not to be confused with the famous playback singer of yesteryear Shamshad Begum who was from Amritsar, Punjab). Saira spent a significant part of her childhood in London, and went to finishing school.
Her grandmother was from Hasanpur Uttar Pradesh.
Saira Banu was 16 years old in 1960, the year she made her debut to Hindi films. She said in a programme, that she had basic talent and little dancing experience.
Her peers all were classically trained, which was why she wasn"t put in the top league. Saira started taking Kathak and Bharata Natyam lessons with success and trained herself professionally.
Soon she became a dancer and her films flaunted more of her dance.
Banu made her acting debut at 17 years opposite Shammi Kapoor in the 1961 film Junglee for which she earned her first Filmfare nomination as Best Actress. The famous song from this movie "Yaahoo!! Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe" sung by Mohammed Rafi was a big success. "Junglee" was written by Aghajani Kashmeri (aka Kashmiri and Agha Jani), who also coached her in Urdu dialogue delivery, given his background in Urdu literature and poetry from Lucknow.
"Junglee" also instantly made her a successful actress throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.
But it is said that the turning point of her career was the comedy and love story Padosan, which brought her to be one of the successful actresses. Her valiant attempts to establish a reputation as an actress after Gopi, Sagina and Bairaag (all with Dilip Kumar) and films like Hrishikesh Mukherjee"s Chaitali met with limited success.
Some of her successful films are "Jhuk Gaya Aasman" and "Aayi Milan Ki Bela" with Rajendra Kumar, with Biswajeet, she paired in "April Fool", with one more successful actor Joy Mukherjee, her films were "Aao Pyar Karen", "Door Ki Aaawaz" and with Dharmendra, she did Jwar Bhata, Aadmi Aur Insaan, Resham Ki Dori, Pocket Maar, International Crook, and Chaitali. She also did "Pyar Mohabbat" with Development Anand and did two films with Manoj Kumar, namely "Poorab Aur Paschim" and "Balidan".
She did earn three additional Filmfare nominations as Best Actress for, Diwana (1968), and
In 1976, Saira chose to end her film career.