Nithya Menon was born in Bangalore, Karnataka into a Malayali family and studied journalism at the Manipal Institute of Communication. She also studied in Bangalore. Her father’s family is from Calicut and her mother’s is from Palakkad. She enrolled for a course in cinematography at the FTI Pune. During the entrance examination, she met Nandini Reddy, who “brainwashed” and convinced her to take up acting. Nandini Reddy would later turn director and sign Nithya for the lead female role in her first project.
Nithya Menon appeared first on screen as a child artiste when she was eight in the Indian English language film, Hanuman (1998), playing the younger sister to Tabu’s character. The 2008 off-beat film Aakasha Gopuram, directed by National Film Award-winning director K. P. Kumaran, marked her debut in a leading role, in which she was paired with Mohanlal. She was in the midst of her 12th class exams when she was offered the role, after Mohanlal had spotted her on the front cover of a tourism magazine. Her performance was well received, with critics writing that she shows “sparkle in her debut venture” and “makes her entry in an impressive role”, though the film, based on the Norwegian play The Master Builder, got mixed reviews and was a financial failure. She next made her Kannada debut with the film Josh. She essayed a supporting role in the film, which received rave reviews, and became a commercial success as well, with her performance garnering her a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category at the 57th Filmfare Awards South.