Former Miss India Neha Dhupia, who has as many as five films lined up this year, says winning a beauty pageant is no guarantee of striking gold in Bollywood and that it's only hard work that finally counts.
"It's not easy to create a place for yourself in Bollywood even if you have a pageant behind you. No one in the industry was holding special carpets for me because I had won the Miss India contest. You have to work hard if you want to prove something.
It's taken me a long time to carve a niche for myself, but I'm glad that finally I have done it," Neha told IANS on phone from Goa.
The actress is set to appear in five movies this year - "Paying Guest" with Mukta Arts, "Pappu Can't Dance Saala" and "Raat Gayi Baat Gayi" by actor-director Saurabh Shukla, "Raftaar" co-starring Emraan Hashmi and Priyadarshan's "De Dhana Dan".
In "Pappu Can't Dance Saala", her first release this year, Neha is acting along with funny man Vinay Pathak.
"In this comedy film I'm doing with Vinay Pathak, I play the role of a Maharashtrian back-up dancer. It was something very different for me because I'm not a Maharashtrian.
I had to learn the mannerisms of the character, who is a complete brat and a bully, but Saurabh (Shukla) helped me a lot," she explained.
Neha maintains that she has become more careful while choosing projects as she doesn't want to get typecast in a certain role.
"I'm holding myself back now and doing only interesting projects."
After winning the Miss India crown in 2002, Neha stepped into Bollywood with 2003 "Qayamat: City Under Threat", which starred Ajay Devgan. She got noticed when she did the bold "Julie" in 2004, but got typecast in a glamorous image.
She went on to do films like "Kyaa Kool Hai Hum" and "Shootout At Lokhandwala", but she tried to break her glam image with "Chup Chup Ke", "Mithya", "Maharathi" and "Dasvidaniya".
"I feel in our industry you get typecast instantly. When I started off I was offered other roles as well, but I chose the ones I did and got stuck with one image, which was hard to break. That was a mistake and I've learnt from that. There was no guiding force for me when I entered Bollywood," Neha said.
Like many others in Bollywood, Neha too admits she would love to work with Shah Rukh Khan and Mani Ratnam, but adds that she doesn't consider anyone her competition in the industry.
"I don't consider anyone my competition. Everyone is great and so talented. Why compete? I would rather be a collective part of the industry," the actress said.