Rohini started her career with Marathi stage. Once in Bombay while still at NSD, Jayadev and Rohini started a Marathi theatre group in Bombay, called “Awishkar”, which went on to produce over 150 plays. In 1975 she won the Best Actress Award at the Maharashtra State Drama Festival, for her performance in Changuna, a Marathi adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s Spanish classic Yerma. The play was produced by “Awishkar” in Mumbai.
Hattangadi is the first woman to act in Kannada play Yakshagana, a folk play directed by K. Shivaram Karanth, and is the first woman in Asia to act in a Japanese Kabuki play, Ibaragi, directed by Shozo Sato, a Japanese director.
Hattangadi made her film debut with Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan in 1978. The film won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie. This was followed by her appearance in Mirza’s next picture, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai (1980), which won the same award, and Rabindra Dharmaraj’s drama Chakra (1981). Her characters in these films were minor.
she was again cast as the aging mother of Amitabh Bachchan in Agneepath, for which she was awarded her second Filmfare Award in the Best Supporting Actress category. Throughout the 1990s and the 2000s, she was cast by Rajkumar Santoshi in several of his films, such as Damini (1993), Ghatak: Lethal (1996) and Pukar (2000).
Her performance in Rajkumar Hirani’s directorial debut Munnabhai MBBS (2003) received positive reactions, and she later reprised her role in the Tamil version of the film, Vasool Raja MBBS (2004).