Subhash Ghai was born to a dentist father who practised in Delhi, Subhash did his higher secondary in Delhi and thereafter graduated in Commerce from Rohtak, Haryana. Next he moved to Pune, Maharashtra to join the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). After attaining a diploma, he started working in the Indian film industry in 1970.
Ghai started his career in Hindi cinema as an actor with small roles in films including Taqdeer (1967) and Aradhana (1971). He was the male lead in the 1970s Umang, and Gumraah (1976). His directorial debut was the film Kalicharan (1976) which he obtained through a recommendation by Shatrughan Sinha. As of 2005[update], he had written and directed 15 movies.
He then took a break from directing and turned producer with films including Aitraaz (2004), Iqbal (2005), 36 China Town (2006) and Apna Sapna Money Money (2006). In 2006, he set up his own film institute Whistling Woods International in Mumbai. The institute trains students in filmmaking: production, direction, cinematography, acting, animation. Ghai has done brief cameos in his directorial ventures.
After a three-year hiatus from directing, he returned in 2008 with Black and White released on 7 March 2008 and, later Yuvvraaj released in November 2008.A. R. Rahman stated in an interview that Ghai had asked him to use the words "Jai Ho" in a song.