In a 2010 retrospective of the "Top 80 Iconic Performances" of Hindi cinema, Filmfare wrote that she was "brilliant" and praised her ability to "effortless[ly]" convey the various emotions her character went through.
She went on to receive Filmfare Awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for her performances in the 2007 romantic comedy Jab We Met and the 2010 drama We Are Family, respectively.
Kapoor achieved further success by featuring as the female lead in two of India's top-grossing productions—the 2009 comedy-drama 3 Idiots and the 2015 social drama Bajrangi Bhaijaan—and received praise for her roles in the 2009 thriller Kurbaan and the 2012 drama Heroine.
The year 2004 marked a turning point for Kapoor when she played against type in the role of a sex worker in the drama Chameli.
She subsequently earned wide critical recognition for her portrayal of a riot victim in the 2004 drama Dev and a character based on William Shakespeare's heroine Desdemona in the 2006 crime film Omkara.
Married to actor Saif Ali Khan, with whom she has a son, Kapoor's off-screen life is the subject of widespread coverage in India.
She has a reputation for being outspoken and assertive, and is recognised for her contributions to the film industry through her fashion style and film roles.In addition to film acting, Kapoor is a stage performer and has contributed as a co-author to three books: an autobiographical memoir and two nutrition guides.She has also launched her own clothing line in association with the retail chain Globus. She is the paternal granddaughter of actor and filmmaker Raj Kapoor, maternal granddaughter of actor Hari Shivdasani, and niece of actor Rishi Kapoor., Jeena Sirf Merre Liye, Talaash: The Hunt Begins..., Khushi, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, and the four-hour war epic LOC Kargil—were critically and commercially unsuccessful.Under the direction of Sudhir Mishra, Kapoor played the role of a golden-hearted prostitute in Chameli, a film relating the story of a young prostitute who meets with a widowed investment banker (played by Rahul Bose).Featured opposite Shah Rukh Khan, Kapoor found herself challenged playing the complex personality of her character Kaurwaki (a Kalingan princess) with whom Ashoka falls in love.A key point in Kapoor's career came when she was cast by Karan Johar as Pooja ("Poo", a good-natured, superficial girl) in the 2001 melodrama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... Filming the big-budget production was a new experience for Kapoor, and she recalls it fondly: "[I]t was great fun doing [the film and] we had a blast.When Kapoor was initially offered the film she refused it, explaining that she would be uncomfortable in the role.She relented when Mishra approached her for the second time, and in preparation for the role, visited several of Mumbai's red-light districts at night to study the mannerisms of sex workers and the way they dressed.Set against the backdrop of the Mumbai underworld, the film follows the story of an online heist in which her character, Neha Mehra, becomes involved.Although the film was unsuccessful at the box office, Kapoor received positive reviews for her performance, and some critics noted a distinct progression from her earlier roles.