She was an alumna of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Her debut in Shyam Benegal's Charandas Chor (1975) was followed by Jabbar Patel's Saamna of the same year.
The role Bhumikathat would make her a star was of the Harijan (Untouchable) woman in Manthan (1976). Bhumika in 1976, again with Shyam Benegal, was another powerful role of the legendary Marathi film star Hansa Wadkar. Bhavni Bhavai (1980) portrayed her as a tribal woman, free and wild at heart. Films like Muzaffar Ali's Gaman and The Naxalites (1979), Chakra (1980), Bazaar (1982) were appropriate vehicles for her talent. Others like Ardh Satya (1983), Tarang (1984), Mirch Masala (1985) where she played the heroic Sonbai who defies authority and conventional oppression, are films that cannot be definitely categorized as mainstream or art house.
Smita Patil was also a women's rights activist and became famous for her roles in films that portrayed women as capable. In addition to such roles, she was proficient in mainstream cinema as well - Dil-e-Nadaan (1979), Namak Halal and Arth (1982), Ghulami and Tere Sheher Mein in 1985, Dehleez in 1986 and Thikana (1987), to name a few. Patil acted in regional films as well - Mrinal Sen's Akaler Sandhaney in Bengali, Aravindan's Malayalam film Chidambram, and the Kannada film Anveshane, directed by T.S. Nagabharana.
Smita Patil's work has been honoured at the La Rochelle festival and also by the French Cinematheque in 1984. A posthumous exhibition of photographs - at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai (1992) - has earned her a reputation as an amateur photographer. She was a women's activist and a member of the Women's Centre, Mumbai. She married the actor Raj Babbar, and her death in 1986 shortly after childbirth was a loss to the country and the film industry.
Awards Won By Smita Patil
1978 - National Film Award - Best Actress for Bhumika
1982 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Chakra
1982 - National Film Award - Best Actress for Chakra
1985 - Padma Shri Award
1978 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Bhumika
1983 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Bazaar
1984 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for Arth
1984 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for Mandi
1985 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Aaj Ki Aawaz
Films Acted by Smita Patil