Revathi was born as Asha Kelunni Kutty in Kochi to Major Kelunni, a major in the Indian Army, and Lalitha Kelunni. In 1983, while living in and attending school in Chennai, Tamil Nadu she was spotted by noted Tamil director Bharathiraja, who was searching for a new heroine for his next film, and went on to play the heroine of Mann Vasanai which became a Silver Jubilee hit. Since then, she has acted over one hundred films spanning all four major South Indian languages as well as Hindi.
Over the course of her career, Revathi has earned numerous awards on both a regional and national basis, including receiving the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil for three consecutive years (1992–1994) for Thevar Magan, Marupadiyum, and Priyanka respectively, the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Malayalam for Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal, the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for Thevar Magan, as well as the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Telugu for Ankuram. Alongside these are many awards from the Film Fans Association, the Tamil Nadu State Government, Cinema Express, and other organizations.
Mitr, My Friend (2002) was her first full-length directorial venture. A rare Indian English film at the time, Mitr garnered an award for Best Director (English Film) in the National Awards. Her next film as a director, Phir Milenge (2004), created waves as one of the first Hindi movies to deal with the sensitive subject of AIDS. She was also a part of Mani Ratnam’s stage show, Netru, Indru, Naalai, as well as the Malayalam anthology film Kerala Cafe.
Apart from films, she has been involved in a variety of social organisations, the most notable being the Banyan, the Ability Foundation, the Tanker Foundation, and Vidyasagar, and has also served as a member of several film festivals including the Chennai International Film Festival and the International Film Festival of India.
She is trained in the dance form of Bharatanatyam, having studied since the age of seven and performed her arangetram in Chennai, Tamil Nadu in 1979. Her marriage to cinematographer and director Suresh Menon was announced in 1986; they separated in 2002.