Rakul was born in a Punjabi family in New Delhi, she did her schooling from Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan and later studied Mathematics at Jesus and Mary College,University of Delhi. She has been an active golf player and played nationals. Rakul had always dreamt of being an actress, began her career in modelling at age 18 while she was still in college. She made her acting debut in 2009 in the Kannada film, Gilli, a remake of Selvaraghavan's 7G Rainbow Colony. She won critical acclaim for her role in the film before returning to complete her degree and compete in the 2011 Femina Miss India pageant. Apart from the Miss India Poll, Rakul won four subtitles at the pageant including Pantaloons Femina Miss Fresh Face, Femina Miss Talented, Femina Miss Beautiful Smile and Femina Miss Beautiful Eyes.
She returned to films in 2011, featuring opposite debutant Siddharth Rajkumar in Keratam. In 2012, she appeared in a supporting role in the Tamil filmThadaiyara Thaakka. In 2013, she was seen in two films, Puthagam in Tamil and Venkatadri Express in Telugu, the latter becoming a commercial success. In 2014, Rakul debuted in a starring role in Bollywood with Divya Kumar's directorial debut Yaariyan, after which her third Tamil film Yennamo Yedho, released. By mid-2014, she was working on four Telugu films simultaneously. She received positive reviews for her performances in both films Loukyam and Current Theega. Rakul was then selected as the female lead in half-a-dozen, four of which are high-profile Telugu films. She also has a Hindi film, Ramesh Sippy'sShimla Mirchi, coming up. In January 2016 she signed a film under the direction of Boyapati Srinu opposite Bellamkonda Sreenivas for which she charged 1.5 crore. In February 2016 she signed Surender Reddy's untitled film opposite Ram Charan. Her upcoming movies include Sarrainodu, Brahmostavam, Thupparivaalan and Jagath Jenthri.