She was born on 18th September 1951, and her parents are Kaifi Azmi, a renowned Indian poet and writer of Urdu and Shaukat, a well known stage actress. She has a brother named, Baba Azmi, a cinematographer. Her parents had an active social life, and their home was always throbbing with people and activities. Early in childhood, the environment in her home inculcated into her a respect for family ties, social and human values; and her parents always supported her to develop a passion for intellectual stimulation and growth.
She completed a graduation degree in Psychology from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, followed by a course in Acting at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. She topped the list of successful candidates of 1972.
In the initial stage of her career, she was linked to noted film director Shekhar Kapur, but married on 9th December 1984 Javed Akhtar, a famed lyricist, poet and scriptwriter of bollywood. It was Akhtar's second marriage, the first being with the bollywood scriptwriter, Honey Irani. He has always given her encouragements to stimulate her to grow independently