Bendre as a teenager did a few modelling assignments and appeared in several television commercials. She was later selected for the "Star Dust Talent Search". She was invited to Mumbai and received training from a variety of top actors and performers of the Indian film industry. Initially, she was cast opposite Arbaaz Khan, in a movie directed by Sohail Khan. However, this movie never was made. Her first role was in Aag (1994) at 19. She won the Filmfare Award for Lux New Face of the Year and Star Screen Awards for Most Promising Newcomer. In 1995, she appeared in Bombay. She featured in the item song Humma Humma, which was her shot at popularity.