Pankaj Kapoor did his Engineering from New Delhi and then joined National School of Drama. After passing out from there, he did theatre for the next four years, till he was offered Gandhi by Richard Attenborough.
Pankaj Kapur made his film debut with Shyam Benegal's film Arohan (1982), which was critically acclaimed. After that he played the role of Mahatma Gandhi's second secretary Pyarelal, in Richard Attenbrough film Gandhi in 1982. It was an oscar-winner, and it also won the hearts of people all over the world. Later, Pankaj also dubbed for Ben Kingsley in the Hindi version of the film.
Pankaj then appeared in many powerful art films with leading art films directors. He did films like Shyam Benegal's Mandi (1983), Kundan Shah's comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro again in 1983, followed by Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho! (1984), Mrinal Sen's Khandhar (1984), and Vidhu Vinod Chopra's suspense thriller Khamosh (1985). All of them were critically acclaimed, and are considered great movies even today. Pankaj Kapur thus became one of the most wanted artists in the film industry.
Pankaj slowly slipped into commercial cinema as well. He did Aitbaar (1985), starring Raj Babbar and Dimple Kapadia. The film didn’t do too well. Aghaat (1985) was his next release, which won many accolades. Continuing with art cinema, he starred in classics like Chameli Ki Shaadi (1986), Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986), and Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin (1987). The movies were widely appreciated, even though they didn’t gain enough box-office success. In 1987, he portrayed a comic character in Pankaj Parashar’s Jalwa, also starring Naseeruddin Shah. Sudhir Mishra’s Main Zinda Hoon (1988) and Aditya Bhattacharya’s Raakh (1989) were Pankaj’s next two releases. The latter won him huge appreciation. Basu Chatterjee’s Kamla Ki Maut (1989) was critically acclaimed. One of Pankaj’s strongest performances was visible in Tapan Sinha’s Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1991), for which he won many accolades.
Pankaj then did Mani Ratnam’s Roja (Tamil and then dubbed in Hindi) (1992, 1993), also starring Arvind Swamy and Madhoo. The film was a critical success, and its music is popular even today. In 1995, Pankaj starred in Rajiv Mehra’s Ram Jaane, the title role being played by Shah Rukh Khan. The movie did pretty well, and Pankaj’s performance was again top-notch. Busy with TV serials and other stage plays, Pankaj Kapur disappeared for a short while from the silver screen. He made a comeback in 2002 with Jackpot Do Karode, which was a big flop. Next, he was seen in Sooraj Barjatya’s film Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (2003), playing the heroine’s father. The movie flopped unfortunately. Pankaj again delivered a stunning performance in the critically acclaimed film Maqbool (2003), which was an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. It was directed by Vishal Bharadwaj.Pankaj won several awards for his performance. In 2005, Pankaj appeared in Anubhav Sinha’s Dus and in Sehar. The former was a commercial success, while the latter a critical one. Pankaj’s performance in both films was widely appreciated. The same year, he acted in Chatri Chor (2005), also known as The Blue Umbrella, which again won him many accolades. Bhavna Talwar’s Dharm (2007) was another critical success. Pankaj last appeared in Rajkumar Santoshi’s Halla Bol (2008), also starring Ajay Devgan and Vidya Balan. Pankaj again gave an outstanding performance, though the film was declared a flop.
Pankaj Kapur will next appear in the film Good Sharma in 2008. At present, he is seen on the TV series, “Naya Office-Office”, a sequel to his previous hit series “Office-Office”. He is also preparing to direct his first film, starring son Shahid.
In 1989, Pankaj won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Raakh (1989). In 1991, he won the National Film Award - Special Mention for Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1991). Pankaj won the Screen Award, in 2001, for Best TV actor for Office Office (2000). In 2004, he won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Maqbool (2003). He also won the Filmfare Critics Award, in 2005, for Best Actor for Maqbool (2003). In 2005, Pankaj won the Zee Cine Award for Best Actor – Critics Choice for Maqbool (2003).
Pankaj Kapur was married to Neelima Azim at first. He later divorced her and then married Supriya Pathak. He has two sons, actor Shahid Kapur from his marriage to Neelima Azim and Ishaan Kapur from his marriage to Supriya Pathak. As a director, he has done over 74 plays and serials, including “Mohandas B.A. L.L.B”, “Zabaan Sambhal Ke”, “Karamchand Jasoos”, “Office Office”, “Wah Bhai Wah”, “Neem Ka Ped”, “Kanak Di Balli”, “Albert's Bridge” and “Panchvan Savaar”. Pankaj also did comic interludes in “Philips Top 10”.