Vijaya Nirmala made her cinematic debut at the age of 11 with a child artist role in the Telugu language film Panduranga Mahatyam in 1957. She made her full-fledged adult acting debut with the Malayalam language film Bhargavi Nilayamin 1964.This film was the first horror film of Malayalam cinema and was well received. She was paired opposite superstar actor Prem Nazir. Soon she made her Telugu and Tamil film debut with the films Manchi Kutumbam and Enga Veetu Penn respectively.
She was once again paired with Prem Nazir in blockbuster Malayalam film Rosie in 1965.The film is still remembered for its nostalgic song, Alliyambal Kadavil. Her noted Malayalam films are Udhyogastha, Durga, Karutha Pournami and Anweshichu Kandethiyilla to name a few.
In addition to acting, she is a renowned director and holds the Guinness World Record of directing the highest number of films as a female director. She has directed as many as 44 films in her distinctive career. She started her career in 1957 and in 2017; she has completed her 50 golden years in the film industry. She made her directorial debut with the film Meena in 1971.