Neha was born in the Punjabi-speaking Dhupia family in Cochin, India, on August 27, 1980, and as is customary with most Punjabi and Sikh families - she was nicknamed 'Chotu'. Her dad is an Officer in the Indian Navy, Pradip Singh Dhupia; her mom, Manpinder, is a homemaker, and she has a brother, Hardeep, who works with Jet Airways. As a child she completed her schooling in Vizag, then in Naval Public School, and eventually graduated in History from Jesus and Mary College in Delhi. She started her career as an actress in Rajdhani (1999) a TV serial during the year 1999. Since then she has appeared in a number of TV advertisements, ramp shows, as well as two music videos. She gained instant fame in India when she was crowned 'Miss India 2002', taking over this title from Bollywood actress, Celina Jaitley. Neha finished amongst the top 10 in the 'Miss Universe 2002'. She made her debut on the tinsel screen during 1997 with Jab Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya (1997). Then during the year 2003 she appeared in two Telugu movies, before making her first major appearance in a Bollywood flick Qayamat: City Under Threat (2003) also during the same year.