Leela Chitnis father was an English Literature Professor. She was among one of the first educated actresses of Hindi cinema. After completion of her graduation, she joined a theatre group, Natyamanwantar. The group’s works were heavily influenced by Shaw, Ibsen and Stanislavsky. In theatre, she played the lead role in several plays including tragedies and comedies.
She started her acting career with the film Shri Satyanarayan in 1935. She acted in a considerable amount of films before her first hit film Kangan, which released in 1939. This film’s success made her leading lady of Bombay Talkies. She made a formidable pair with Veteran Ashok Kumar and together they gave hits like Bandhan, Azad, and Jhoola. In 1941, she was at the peak of her career and she created history by becoming the first Indian Actress to endorse prestigious brand Lux Soap, a feat which was consigned only to top actresses of Hollywood.
Although she established herself as a lead actress in Hindi cinema she became famous by her portrayal of roles of upright and virtuous mother to lead actors.