Born in Ayodhya and raised in Bangalore, Sharma had her first modeling assignment for the fashion designer Wendell Rodricks in 2007 and later moved to Mumbai to pursue a full-time career as a model. She made her acting debut opposite Shah Rukh Khan in the highly successful romantic film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008), which earned her a Filmfare Award for Best Actress nomination. She rose to prominence with starring roles in Yash Raj Films' romances Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) and Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012); the latter, in which she played an aspiring filmmaker, won her a Best Supporting Actress award at Filmfare.
Sharma went on to earn praise and several acting nominations for playing a woman troubled by criminals in the 2015 crime thriller NH10, which also marked her production debut, a dancer in the 2015 comedy-drama Dil Dhadakne Do, and a free-spirited woman in the 2016 romantic drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Sharma's highest-grossing releases came with the sports drama Sultan (2016), and Rajkumar Hirani's religious satire PK (2014) and biopic Sanju (2018); all three rank among the highest-grossing Indian films.
In addition to acting in films, Sharma is the ambassador for multiple brands and products and has designed her own line of clothing for women, named Nush. She supports various charities and causes, including gender equality and animal rights, and is the co-founder of the production company Clean Slate Films. Sharma is married to the cricketer Virat Kohli.