Television star Shveta Salve, glowing in the spotlight for her dance performances on Sony's "Jhalak Dikhla Jaa", dismisses talk that she is a trained dancer.
"I am not a seasoned dancer. Why would I be allowed to participate if I was? I have worked hard at my dance and it hurts that my hard efforts are being brushed off," Shveta told IANS.
The show's format clearly mentions that only amateurs can participate and producer Siddharth Basu or Sony would not go against the rules, she added.
"My natural ability is being held against me. Should I under-perform to prove I'm not a trained dancer?
"The judges (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Farah Khan and Shilpa Shetty) are such eminent personalities of the industry and everybody knows what they are doing. Anyway, I will let my work speak for itself," Shveta said.
The grand finale between her and Mona Singh - who played Jassi in "Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin" - is scheduled Friday.
Filmmaker Bhansali has compared her with Madhuri Dixit and called her the "best dancer in the country". The dusky beauty gives all the credit to her choreographer Longinus.
"Longi, at the moment, means everything to me. What he has done for me I only know. I couldn't have asked for a better partner than him. He is one of the oldest in this profession and thanks to him my performances have been better and better.
"This show has been the best thing to happen to me in a long time. I have established a personal touch with my audience. People, especially senior citizens, come up to me and bless me," she added.
She has been getting kudos from all corners.
Said filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar: "Shveta is very diligent and her dancing skills have been going a notch higher every time the show is aired. Her efforts will definitely pay off and I give her my best wishes."
Manish Goswami of Siddhant Cinevision said: "On pure merit, Shveta should win. She has danced well and her work speaks for itself. She is a wonderful and professional human being and it's a pleasure to see her perform."
TV actress Achint Kaur said she had brought class to the show and established a benchmark for other participants: "As far as I know, she's not a trained dancer, but dancing is in her blood! Shveta is a very confident person and it shows in her performances and according to me she's the best."
Amit Varma, Shveta's co-star in "Kittu Sab Janti Hain", added enthusiastically: "I have seen her stay up all night rehearsing, coming to shoots, then running off for dance rehearsals again - she has put in a lot of hard work.
"It's sad that people are saying she is a trained dancer, but she's not. I have seen her work on it for days. It is ultimately a dance show, so it's logical the better dancer should win, and for me Shveta has been the better dancer."
For actress Deepshikha, Shveta is a winner already!
"In my eyes, Shveta is already a winner thanks to her hard work and dancing skills. Judges know she's the best, so now it all depends on the votes. Even if she doesn't win, I know and we all know she's a true blue winner."
Everyone is talking about the fabulous prize money that will go to the winner this Friday but Shveta is keeping her fingers crossed.
"I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. The contract says 20 percent is to be given to the choreographer from the channel's side. And if at all I do win, if I want to give something apart from 20 percent, it's a personal thing. I'll tell you when I win.
"Right now I don't want to discuss money. I'd rather discuss my dance," said Shveta.