Prakash Jha was born on 27 February 1952, in Patna, Bihar. Jha did his schooling from Sainik School Tilaiya. He studied physics at Delhi University and then decided to work on the family farm in 1970. He moved to Bombay in 1972 to study at the Film & television Institute of India. He started off his career making documentaries such as Pas De Deux (1981), Faces After The Storm (1981), Shreevatsya (1983) and May I Think, Sir? (1983).
Jha made his debut in Bollywood with the award-winning film Hip Hip Hurray in 1984. The movie, starring Raj Kiran and Nikhil Bhagat, was related to sports, football in particular. Damul (1985) written and directed by Jha, was critically acclaimed. It won many accolades. The movie starred Annu Kapoor and Deepti Naval. Jha shot to fame with this film. Jha then got involved in making documentaries like Parampara (1986), Ek Aur Itihaas (1987) and Ek Abihbyakti (1988).
In 1989, Jha produced and directed Parinati, which was a failure at the box-office. But it earned huge critical acclaim. Bandish (1996), starring Jackie Shroff and Juhi Chawla, flopped badly. The Death Sentence: Mrityu Dand (1997), written produced and directed by Jha, was a critical success. The movie, starring Shabana Azmi, Madhuri Dixit and Ayub Khan, won several awards. Jha then made Dil Kya Kare (1999), starring Ajay Devgan and Kajol. The movie unfortunately flopped. In 2001, Jha made Rahul (2001), starring Neha and Jatin Grewal. It was an emotional film, but failed to click with the audience. Gangaajal (2003), written and directed by Jha, was both a commercial as well as a critical success. The movie starred Ajay Devgan and Gracy Singhin lead roles. This film brought Jha into the limelight once again. The same year, he also directed Praan Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye (2003), which flopped. Jha’s last directorial film was Apaharan (2005), starring Nana Patekar and Ajay Devgan. The film did average business, but was a huge critical success. Jha recently produced two films, viz. Dil Dosti Etc. (2007) and Khoya Khoya Chand (2007). Both films failed to do well. Jha's next release is Rajniti, starring Nana Patekar andAjay Devgan, besides others. Jha who is currently contemplating four scripts for his banner claims that Nana will direct one of the films that will be produced by his banner the next year.
Jha married film actress Deepti Naval, but later they got divorced. He has been making films independently since 1974 - completing over 25 documentaries, five features, along with numerous television projects. He directed the TV series Mungherilal Ke Haseen Sapne in 1990. He has been regarded as a director in the league of Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal, Kundan Shah, Sai Paranjpye. Jha fought, and lost, election to the Lok Sabha from his native Champaran in 2004. He is also associated with grassroots movements for social and cultural renaissance.